A car trunk full of gold and a former magistrate with a nickname who refuses to comment due to the “risk of coronavirus.”
To whom the Prosecution had returned 35 kilograms of gold – the material evidence seized after searches – and how? Were all the legal requirements for this return met? Is it possible to transfer companies’ shares in hospital offices? These are the issues investigated in the second part of the Anti-Corruption Fund’s documentary video “The Eight Dwarfs,” published today. It traces the legal conflict over the Izamet group of companies. It also features the names of former Sofia Investigation chief Petyo Petrov and his wife, Lyubena. Lyubena Petrova became publicly known in 2015 as the organizer of the “Plan B” civil association supporting the former Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov.
The seizure in 2019 of gold coins and bars worth BGN 4 million as material evidence and their return in March 2020 poses more and more questions about the role of the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office. Unfortunately, the questions remain unanswered to date. “We did not receive an answer from the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office to our second inquiry. We sought a comment from the Prosecution Office’s administrative head at the time, Dimitar Frantisek Petrov. He, too, refused to comment,” said Nikolay Staykov, the investigation’s author.
Iliya Zlatanov, Izamet’s owner, testifies that he never had documents about the gold acquisition. According to him, false invoices were presented to the Prosecutor’s Office to create a seemingly legal basis for its return to him, as was the agreement with his “assistant” in the legal conflict Petyo Petrov. The former magistrate, sought in person at “The Eight Dwarfs” restaurant, again refused to comment. The reason he gave was the “risk of coronavirus.”
Iliya Zlatanov discussed the story about the gold in a Viber chat with a Viber user, “Lyubena.” Iliya Zlatanov’s son – Yavor, the owner of the safe deposit box from which the Prosecution Office confiscated the gold a year ago, also comments in the investigation’s second part. He assures he is the real owner of the gold and can prove the purchase of part of it with documents. If this is true, it would mean that both sides in the conflict confirm the suspicions that the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office returned the gold illegally.
The legal analysis of this return of seized material evidence raises even more questions. The gold was confiscated from Yavor Zlatanov, without indications that the Prosecutor’s Office ever investigated his undoubted claims for ownership as exercising a de facto power. The Prosecutor’s decree ordered its transfer to another person based on invoices certifying that he had bought it. We do not have information on whether the Prosecution Office addressed the other party to clarify a logical question: why, since Iliya Zlatanov was the property owner, it was not in his possession, but in possession of his son Yavor, with whom he was in conflict.
The other case described in the film concerns the signing of a contract for the purchase and sale of shares of Iliya Zlatanov’s company. According to him, he signed it under duress at the Lozenets Government Hospital. The notary who certified the signatures confirmed the location but stated that everything about the signing was legal. However, the new circumstances have not yet been entered in the Commercial Register.
The background to “The Eight Dwarfs” investigation:
Two years before Iliya Zlatanov’s meeting with Petyo Petrov, there was an open war in the Izamet group of companies, the largest manufacturer of elevators in Bulgaria, between the partners, father and son Zlatanovi. The conflict escalated and led to legal disputes and even incidents between the parties involved. Their complaints and reports to institutions remained unanswered. The assets under discussion were companies with a turnover and profit of millions of BGN, real estate across the country, expensive cars, money in bank accounts in Bulgaria and Switzerland, and gold worth over BGN 4 million.
“Petrov and I agreed in “The Eight Dwarfs” to split in half whatever he managed to “return” from my assets,” said Iliya Zlatanov, the 73-year-old founder, majority owner, and manager of the companies. A year later, however, the situation was not exactly as he expected. An arrest order has been issued for Zlatanov. He is currently located in a country he does not want to reveal. Most of the assets – company shares, real estate, cars, and bank accounts – were seized with a promissory note for nearly BGN 3 million, signed in favor of Lyubena Petrova. After his complaint, four members of the Zlatanov family are being prosecuted. According to documents, only the gold worth over BGN 4 million confiscated from the safe deposit box of his “opponents” was “returned” to Zlatanov. However, he claims it ended up in the trunk of Lyubena Petrova’s car immediately after he signed the return protocols on the parking lot of the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office. He has not seen it ever since.
The legal analysis of the documentation provided to the ACF shows serious indicators and raises doubts about the Prosecutor’s Office’s adequate and objective reaction in the whole case. Zlatanov’s short message correspondence with implicated persons also contains information about possible influence exercised on institutions such as the Ministry of Interior and the Prosecutor’s Office and must be inspected in depth.
Following the first publication of the ACF on the subject, the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office initiated a preliminary inspection on June 26, 2020. On June 30, Nikolay Staykov, the author of the publication, gave testimony at the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office. Immediately after, the first participants in the case were summoned.