Bulgaria’s Supreme Cassation Prosecutor’s Office has assigned the anti-corruption commission to investigate following a report about properties purchased at reduced prices by the company Skat, managed by nationalist MP Valeri Simeonov.
Simeonov is a co-leader of the United Patriots, the grouping of ultra-nationalist and far-right parties that is the minority partner in Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s coalition government.
The statement about the investigation came a few days after Simeonov levelled allegations against a fellow ruling majority politician of whom he has been a frequent critic, Tourism Minister Nikolina Angelkova of Borissov’s GERB party. Angelkova has denied wrongdoing in connection with her property transactions.
The probe into Simeonov’s Skat, the name also used for his party’s mouthpiece cable television channel, is the latest concerning allegations of property acquisitions at below-market prices, a saga that has damaged the ruling coalition and led to a succession of resignations from elected posts, though again with all concerned denying wrongdoing.
The statement said that the referral to the Prosecutor’s Office was received on April 9. It covered properties that it is alleged were acquired at “unrealistically low prices,” the statement said.
It referred to a 2004 transaction involving Skat, which acquired the right to build an 80 sq m apartment in Bulgaria’s Black Sea coast Sunny Beach resort for the amount of 900 leva (about 450 euro), with a tax assessment of 856.60 leva.
The second referred to a 2005 purchase in Sunny Beach of an area of 31.35 sq m for an amount of 6901 leva with a tax assessment of 6901 leva.
The third was the purchase in 2008 of a 875 sq m private municipal property of an area of 875 sq m for the amount of 850 815. The transaction was decided by the municipal council, chaired at the time by Simeonov, while the head of the municipal property committee was Valeri Kasabov, now an MP for Simeonov’s party, and the legal counsel was Kristian Mitev, now also an MP for Simeonov’s party. Prosecutors said that the allegation was that the property was not used for the cable channel, but a block of flats had been built.
Further, it is alleged that in 2008, Skat bought a property in Zlatograd municipality, a recreation centre that is now the Panorama Hotel. On the property are a swimming pool and restaurant which the Supreme Administrative Court had ruled in 2013 were illegally built and should be demolished, but this had not been done.
The investigation would cover Simeonov, Kasabov and Mitev, as well as people who were employed by Bourgas municipality in 2008, the Prosecutor’s Office said.
Simeonov told television station bTV on April 10 that the properties had undergone many checks, “a million times”, including by the National Revenue Agency.
He said that he did not know who had passed on the allegations to the Prosecutor’s Office. He said that he had his suspicions and would give more information on April 11.
The deals were covered in the company’s balance sheets, Simeonov said. Corporate deals always sought the most profitable price “otherwise my associates could have fired me”.
Simeonov said that it was a “complete lie” that Kasabov had been chairman of the municipality’s property committee and added that it was a lie that Mitev was involved in wrongdoing.
Simeonov said that he saw no reason to resign and would take court action against the person who lodged the report with prosecutors, once he found out who that person was.