The Anti-Corruption Fund Foundation (ACF) has alerted the Public Prosecution about a decision of the Commission for the Forfeiture of Illegally Acquired Property (CFIAP) to lift the distraint over assets belonging to the Finnish national of Russian descent Elizabeth Elena von Messing, who has been sentenced at first instance for money laundering BGN 1.5 bln.
Ms. von Messing has been the subject of an investigation for several years, however in 2015,CFIAP decided to lift the distraint over her assets worth BGN 23 mln. It has been two years already since Ms. von Messing has had full control over the assets and there are serious suspicions they have been transferred outside of the country.
ACF started its investigation into the case at the end of last year after receiving a copy of a CFIAP resolution and reviewing media publications on the topic. In order to verify the authenticity of the received document, the fund’s legal team filed an access to public information request with CFIAP. The request was rejected and ACF has challenged the rejection in court. The first hearing has been scheduled for later this month.
In September 2017, Ms. von Messing and the Russian national, Dimiter Abramkin, were sentenced by the Sofia City Court (SCC) to ten years’ imprisonment and a fine amounting to BGN 628 mln. lv. for money laundering. Von Messing was detained in the courtroom. Two months later the Sofia Court of Appeal revoked her detention and imposed a new, mitigated detention measure – a bail amounting to BGN 5,000 lv – following a request by Ms. von Messing to receive medical treatment abroad.
Ms. von Messing is currently wanted throughout the country pursuant to a SCC order dated January 2018. According to the court, her appeal for changing the detention measure was based on a document, issued by German doctors, which turned out to be illegal. Following a check by the Agency for juridical cooperation in criminal matters, EUROJUST, it turned out that one of the doctors signatories of the document supplied by Ms. von Messing had passed away nearly a year before the document was issued.
ACF maintains that all circumstances, surrounding CFIAP’s decision to lift the distraint over Ms. von Messing’s assets should be reviewed thoroughly and the following questions answered:
– Has anyone conducted a thorough inspection of the authenticity of the documents presented by Ms. von Messing to CFIAP and other institutions?
– Considering the fact that legal action against Ms. von Messing in Russia has been separated into several criminal proceedings, has CFIAP examined the relationship between all the different cases?
– Has anyone traced the connection between the proceedings from 2008 till 2014, conducted against Ms. von Messing in Russia with respect to the offenses cited in the resolution?
– Has CFIAP conducted an impartial and independent check as to whether the legal proceedings against Ms. von Messing in Russia, in relation to which proceedings against her started in Bulgaria and a distraint on her assets was levied, have actually been terminated?
– Has anyone compared the factual and legal grounds, based on which accusations were brought against Ms. von Messing in Bulgaria, with the grounds for the CFIAP proceedings against her?