A Belgrade court postponed to March 16 the hearing of an extradition request, lodged by Bulgaria against Tsvetan Vassilev, former majority shareholder in the insolvent Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB), Bulgarian National Television reported on February 24.
The delay comes after Vassilev’s lawyer filed a doctor’s note saying that Vassilev had flu and was unable to attend the hearing, the report said.
Bulgarian authorities have been trying to secure Vasilev’s extradition for 17 months, having filed an extradition request in September 2014. He is wanted on charges of embezzlement of 206 million leva from CCB, which was declared insolvent last year.
A second extradition request was sent to authorities in Belgrade in May 2015, detailing additional charges against Vassilev, but both of those requests went unanswered, Bulgaria’s prosecutor’s office said earlier this month, when it made public its intention to seek the assistance of the European Committee on Crime Problems, the Council of Europe office tasked with coordinating the organisation’s activities in the field of crime prevention and crime control, arguing that Serbia was in breach of the European Convention on Extradition, which requires the recipient of an extradition request to “inform the requesting party […] of its decision with regard to the extradition.”
Last year, reports in Bulgarian media said that a Serbian court had ruled to extradite Vassilev, but the decision was overturned on appeal a week later.
Vassilev, who denies wrongdoing and has accused controversial media mogul and MP Delyan Peevski of orchestrating the bank’s downfall – prompted by a run on deposits in June 2014, followed by being put under central bank administration and an audit that found CCB was holding mostly impaired assets – has vowed to fight the extradition request and ruled out voluntarily returning to Bulgaria unless “guaranteed a fair trial”.
(For full coverage of the CCB situation from The Sofia Globe, click here. Photo of Vassilev from his personal website, vassilev.bg)