Bulgaria’s prosecutor’s office said on September 5 that the offices of spirits maker Vinprom Karnobat, its parent company SIS Industries and flour manufacturer Topaz Mel were raided as part of a pre-trial investigation into alleged tax evasion and money laundering.
The prosecutors’ initial statement did not name any individuals investigated as part of the probe, but deputy prosecutor-general Ivan Geshev later said that Vinprom Karnobat owner Minyu Staikov was one of 10 people arrested, as quoted by Bulgarian National Radio (BNR).
He said that prosecutors would give more information about any charges on September 6.
The special prosecutor’s office, which is tasked with investigating high-profile cases, raided offices in Sofia and Karnobat, as well as two villages near Karnobat, where the spirits company has production facilities, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
The alleged tax evasion and money laundering was carried out over a long period of time, between 2009 and 2018, using invoices to fake companies to evade paying value-added tax. The alleged organised crime group that cashed in those invoices then engaged in money laundering to cover up the “provenance of funds acquired using a serious premeditated crime,” the prosecution statement said.
Prosecutors were also investigating charges that goods subject to excise duties were being stored without the requisite excise stamps, which, if backed by evidence, would open the door to possible charges of illegal sale of spirits in addition to tax evasion.
The statement said that the special prosecutor’s office had in July uncovered an illegal cigarette-making factory used by the same alleged organised crime group.
This is the second raid in connection to a high-profile tax evasion and money laundering investigation by the special prosecutor’s office in the space of a week.
On August 31, the prosecutors raided Sofia’s Marinella Hotel and the Maritsa Hotel in Plovdiv, as well as private residences, offices and bank vaults. A day later, a European Arrest Warrant was issued for Vetko Arabadzhiev, owner of the two hotels, and his his wife Marinella.
Asked whether the two investigations were linked, Geshev denied any connection, BNR reported.