Bulgarian banker Vassilev seeking Serbian citizenship to avoid extradition – report
The former majority shareholder in Bulgaria’s insolvent Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB), Tsvetan Vassilev, has filed an application to receive Serbian citizenship, public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television (BNT) said on March 16.
The report, which came on the day that Vassilev faced a court hearing in Belgrade on the request to extradite him to Bulgaria, said that Serbian law does not allow the extradition of Serbian nationals to other countries. BNT also said, citing unnamed sources, that Vassilev’s application to receive political asylum has been denied by Serbian authorities.
Bulgarian authorities have been trying to secure Vasilev’s extradition for the past 18 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.
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”.
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.
The current court case was initially scheduled to be heard on February 24, but the hearing was delayed because Vassilev’s lawyer claimed his client had the flu. The banker did appear at the hearing on March 16 and answered questions for about an hour, with the next hearing scheduled for April 6, BNT said.
(For full coverage of the CCB situation from The Sofia Globe, click here. Photo of Vassilev from his personal website, vassilev.bg)