The Eight Dwarfs: A New ACF Investigation Tracks the Story of a Takeover of a Million-dollar Business

A family conflict escalated in a war between the partners in the largest elevator manufacturer in Bulgaria. The assets under dispute 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. As the dispute grew, some institutions also got involved – the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Interior, and the National Revenue Agency.

Exactly a year ago, one of the key participants in the conflict, Iliya Zlatanov, received an offer to meet with “influential people” who could help him. In a part of the restaurant “The Eight Dwarfs” inaccessible to visitors, Zlatanov met with lawyer Petyo Petrov. Petrov, better known as “The Euro,” is a former head of the Investigation Department of the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office, for whom in 2015 the Supreme Judicial Council refused to initiate disciplinary proceedings. According to Zlatanov, at the Eight Dwarfs restaurant’s meeting, attorney Petrov promised to assist for a rapid intervention of the prosecution against his opponents in the conflict for controlling the family business. In return for this assistance, Petrov demanded half of the recovered assets of the Izamet company.

On July 3, 2019, Iliya Zlatanov really submitted another report to the prosecutor’s office, and the next day he was interrogated. Just two weeks later, on July 19, the Prosecutors’ office informed the media that charges had been filed against six people – including Zlatanov’s son, daughter, and ex-wife – for extortion, embezzlement, unprofitable deals, and large-scale money laundering. 565 thousand euros and 35 kilograms of gold worth over 4 million BGN were seized from Zlatanov’s wife and son’s vaults.

However, the services rendered with assistance from the Prosecutor’s Office seemed to come at a price. A day before the seizure, in the office of lawyers recommended by Petrov, Iliya Zlatanov signed a promissory note for nearly BGN 3 million. The note said that the money was due to Lyubena Petrova, Petyo Petrov’s wife. Based on the promissory note, his other assets were also seized – company shares, real estate, cars, and bank accounts. According to documents, the gold seized from the vaults for over BGN 4 million was returned to Iliya Zlatanov. However, his story is different: according to him, the gold disappeared in the trunk of Lyubena Petrova’s car in the parking lot of the Specialized Prosecutor’s Office.

After new meetings and threats about his life and that of his son, who is on a hemodialysis treatment and with a measure of restraint “detention in custody,” Zlatanov signed everything they asked of him and urgently fled abroad. Zlatanov is currently in a country he does not want to reveal and is preparing to file reports with European institutions about what has happened to him.

“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,” said the ACF’s legal department. “The question is why the Prosecutor’s Office acted just after the intervention of attorney Petyo Petrov?” The swift reaction of the Prosecutor’s Office, as well as some missing documents, notarial entries made outside offices, and during non-working hours and missing signatures under protocols, are just some of the visible irregularities. As established by officials in the commercial register, there are shortcomings in notarization in the electronic register of notaries. Separately, the short message correspondence provided by Zlatanov with persons involved contains information about possible influence exercised on institutions such as the Ministry of Interior and the Prosecutor’s Office, which must be inspected in depth.

Only one of Zlatanov’s lawyers, recommended by Petyo Petrov, agreed to comment on the ACF investigation. “On the appointed day of the meeting, however, the lawyer did not show up at our office and stopped answering her phone,” said investigative journalist Nikolay Staykov of the ACF team. There is no answer from the other lawyer or former investigator and current lawyer Petyo Petrov to his publicly announced phone number. The Specialized Prosecutor’s Office also declined to comment.

The ACF legal team states that it is preparing a report to the Prosecutor’s Office with a request for thorough and independent verification of the information provided in the Izamet case.

The Eight Dwarves is the first part of the ACF’s investigation into the case.

You can watch the video here.


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