Controversy surrounds Bulgarian Parliament’s new-entrant party

Controversy surrounds Velichie, the populist-nationalist party that is a surprise new entrant to Bulgaria’s National Assembly following the country’s June 9 2024 early parliamentary elections.

Although no opinion poll had foreseen Velichie winning enough votes for a share of seats and no significant political party bothered to mention it in their campaigns, the party got 4.65 per cent – with close to 100 000 votes – to become the 50th National Assembly’s seventh and smallest parliamentary group.

The party is only about a year old, having been founded by former National Security Service staffer Nikolai Markov and business person Ivelin Mihailov, the latter the owner of numerous companies – most in the real estate sector – but best known for the Historical Park development near Bulgaria’s Black Sea city of Varna.

The Historical Park project was the subject of media allegations about financial irregularities, and has been investigated by the Financial Supervision Commission, while there also have been media allegations about illicit combat training and stockpiling of weapons.

Mihailov has denied these allegations and all and any wrongdoing. A check by the Interior Ministry and the State Agency for National Security has produced no result.

On June 11, National Revenue Agency head Roumen Spetsov told reporters that the agency was investigating Mihailov’s companies in connection with allegations of financial wrongdoing and fraud.

Spetsov said that the investigations were continuing, but added that Mihailov’s companies owed arrears taxes.

According to Spetsov, the investigations had no connection to the election campaign, which ended last week.

On June 12, the Boets civic movement approached the State Agency for National Security in connection with a June 16 2023 Facebook post by Markov.

In the Facebook post, Markov – who has a track record of Russophilia and opposition to the supply of aid to Ukraine – said that every day he received via “intelligence channels” dozens of clips about exports of all kinds of weapons to Ukraine.

He said that he did not put these online, but instead sent them “through a secret channel directly to Moscow”.

Boets said that the post showed that Markov “collects and receives from unknown persons and sources intelligence information related to the military aid that Bulgaria sends to Ukraine, or at least that is what he claims. He states that this is his job and that he sends this information through a secret channel directly to Moscow, apparently to the Russian intelligence services”.

Boets asked the State Agency for National Security to investigate the “data and information presented about espionage in favour of Russia” and immediate action given that Markov had been elected as an MP and thus would have access to classified information, including reports from Bulgaria’s intelligence services and army.

Mihailov, speaking to bTV on June 11, said in response to the National Revenue Agency announcement that he would shut down his companies, dismiss his employees, pay the arrears tax and from then, deprive the state’s coffers of millions of leva in annual revenue.

“It is common for many companies, having something else to do with the money, not to take it immediately to the state and then pay 23 per cent interest. This is something we have been doing for many years.”

Mihailov said that the allegations of fraud emanated from one person, who had presented no evidence.

On Facebook, Markov said that he had been attacked “in every possible way” since the elections, and said that he had received a death threat, which he linked to Velichie’s allegation about “rigging” of the elections, and which he said he was referring to the State Agency for National Security.

(Photo of Markov and Mihailov via Velichie’s Facebook page)

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