Bulgaria’s special prosecutor’s office said on September 7 that it charged eight people with tax evasion and money laundering following a raid two days earlier at the offices of spirits maker Vinprom Karnobat, its parent company SIS Industries and flour manufacturer Topaz Mel.
One of the people charged as part of the investigation was Minyu Staikov, the owner of Vinprom Karnobat and Topaz Mel, who was in 72-hour preventive arrest, with prosecutors set to ask the courts for permanent detention, the head of the special prosecutor’s office Daniela Nacheva told a news conference.
Five of the eight people charged were under arrest, while three others were still sought for questioning – two of them were on the national wanted list and one other, Staikov’s son Staiko Staikov, was subject to an European Arrest Warrant, Bulgarian National Television reported.
Prosecutors were still gathering evidence to ascertain whether Minyu Staikov or his son, or both, were at the helm of the organised crime group that allegedly operated an illegal cigarette-making factory, including counterfeits of foreign brands.
Angel Kanev, the prosecutor overseeing the investigation, said that a forensic assessment was ordered to determine what tobacco was used at the facility, as it was possible that its quality was below the legal standards.
The raid earlier this week was the result of an investigation that began after the cigarette factory was discovered in Karnobat’s industrial area in July. At that time, law enforcement raided the facility, which was not in use, and found cigarettes worth three million leva in storage.
Prosecutors believed that the factory had been in operation over a period of two years, allegedly employing foreign nationals, mainly from former Soviet republics, to prevent a paper trail with Bulgarian authorities.
The proceeds were allegedly laundered using 20 companies that had other, legal activities and a number of shell companies, prosecutors said. A tax audit was ordered for a total of 40 companies, Bulgarian National Radio quoted Kanev as saying.
A report by news website Mediapool said that one of the people arrested was Ivan Dimitrov, the son of Karnobat’s mayor Georgi Dimitrov. The report said that Ivan Dimitrov was the owner of the property where the cigarette factory was located, which he rented out.
Mediapool quoted Georgi Dimitrov saying that his son believed that he was renting the property to a company from Stara Zagora and was not acquainted with Minyu Staikov.