A Serbian court held on April 6 the latest hearing on the extradition request lodged by Bulgarian authorities against Tsvetan Vassilev, former majority shareholder in insolvent Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB).
Speaking to Bulgarian reporters assembled outside the courthouse in Belgrade, Vassilev said his defence presented evidence that the investigation by Bulgarian prosecutors was politically motivated. Vassilev is wanted on charges of embezzling 206 million leva from CCB over a period of several months before the lender asked to be put under the central bank’s supervision in June 2014.
Vassilev has denied all charges against him and once again blamed the events that led to CCB’s insolvency on his former business associate Delyan Peevski, the controversial MP for the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF). Peevski was the “tip of the spear”, but the “top of the MRF” was behind the attacks on the lender, which were later joined “by other people”, Vassilev told reporters, without giving further details.
(CCB lost its banking licence in November 2014 after an audit found it held mainly impaired assets, as a significant part of its loan portfolio was not backed by sufficient collateral, and had to write-down 4.2 billion leva in assets.)
Vassilev said that he has filed two court actions at the European Court of Human Rights, one in his own name and one in the name of Bromak, his investment vehicle that held the majority stake in CCB. He did not specify the exact grounds on which he was suing Bulgaria.
He also did not confirm or deny earlier reports that he has sought political asylum in Serbia. Bulgarian media reports said that such a manoeuvre would further delay extradition as the hearing would have to be put on hold while Serbian authorities handle the asylum request.
Bulgarian authorities have been trying to secure Vassilev’s extradition for the past 18 months, having filed an extradition request in September 2014. 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.
(For full coverage of the CCB situation from The Sofia Globe, click here. Photo of Vassilev from his personal website, vassilev.bg)