Bulgaria’s Prosecutor-General Ivan Geshev has written to the Council of Europe to complain about Serbia’s continued delay to rule on the extradition of Tsvetan Vassilev, the former majority shareholder in Bulgaria’s Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB), the prosecutor’s office said in a statement on February 5.
The letter was addressed to the Council of Europe secretary-general and the organisation’s European Committee on Crime Problems, with copies to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and European Parliament president David Maria Sassoli, the statement said.
Vassilev is wanted in connection to the investigation into the collapse of CCB in 2014. The investigation, which ended in February 2017, resulted in charges against 18 individuals, with the trial proceedings finally starting in 2019.
Vassilev and the other defendants are alleged to have embezzled a total 2.56 billion leva (about 1.31 billion euro), as well as 205.9 million leva in cash. He has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, claiming that the investigation against him was politically motivated and 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).
In his letter, Geshev argues that the absence of a final court ruling by Serbian authorities raised doubts about the effective implementation of extradition conventions by Belgrade. He notes that it has been more than five years since the original extradition request filed by Bulgarian prosecutors and more than four years since a second request was made.
The prosecutor’s office said that Geshev also wrote a separate letter to the Belgrade high court, saying that Bulgaria’s reasons for requesting Vassilev’s extradition were still valid, given that the landmark trial against him was “without comparison in the history of Bulgaria’s judicial system, with a huge impact on the economy and financial stability of the country.”
The Serbian court has twice ruled to extradite Vassilev, only for those decisions to be overturned on appeal, before deciding in 2017 that the issue was outside its competence.
(For full coverage of the CCB situation from The Sofia Globe, click here. Photo of Vassilev from his personal website, vassilev.bg)