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Billionaire #Soros accused of 'undermining democracy' in EU member states

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Liberal-investor-George-Soros-800x430The Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros has been accused of “undermining democracy” in several member states, writes Martin Banks.

It is claimed that Soros and groups backed by him have sought to secretly influence politics in Hungary as well as other east European countries.

A spokesman for the powerful Soros flatly denied he had been meddling in the working of European democracies.

But this website has learned of fresh allegations that US aid money may have gone through Soros’ Open Society Foundation (OSF) in attempt to intervene in the party politics of Macedonia.

The US Congress is now being urged to investigate the potentially highly damaging allegations.

American Republican senator Christopher Smith called for an inquiry into whether US aid had been used by Soros-supported groups to fund leftist causes in Europe, including violent street protests.

The claims came to light after a series of emails from Soros sponsored groups were released by WikiLeaks and and a site called DCLeaks.com.

They are said to provide “plenty of damning evidence” to justify initiating a series of investigations into the activities of groups run by Soros. His NGOs, supposedly set up to promote liberal causes around the world, are accused of trying to “destabilize” governments and support left-wing organizations in Europe.

The documents appear to reflect a wide-ranging programme by various Soros-affiliated organizations to influence European, particularly German, attitudes towards migrants.

It is said Soros-backed groups played a “significant role” in lobbying the German and other governments to welcome Middle Eastern migrants.

One example cited in the documents is that of a German think tank alleged to have submitted a proposal that requested $1.8m to carry out OSF public opinion survey immigrant integration.

The leaked papers also cite “successful private briefings” organised by OSF in Berlin, at the US State Department and the UK Department of Cities and Local Government.

Politicians in Hungary, Croatia and Bulgaria, all EU members, have criticised OSF, an organization that operates in 60 countries promoting liberal causes, for allegedly encouraging the wave of migration into their countries.

Hungarian PM Viktor Orban has been particularly vocal in his criticism, claiming Soros and groups backed by him wanted to secretly influence his country's politics.

Orban said groups receiving funding from Soros needed to be made transparent and identifiable.

"Large-bodied predators are swimming here in the waters. This is the trans-border empire of George Soros, with tonnes of money and international heavy artillery. It is causing trouble...that they are trying secretly and with foreign money to influence Hungarian politics," said Orban.

Further concern has been voiced by former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski who said Soros had a “decisive influence” on his nation’s politics.

“If it were not for George Soros behind it with all the millions he pours into Macedonia, the entire network of NGOs, media, politicians, inside and out … the economy would be stronger, we would have had more new jobs,” he said.

In Macedonia, the ruling party has backed a movement called “Stop Operation Soros”.

Meanwhile, Romania’s leaders have accused Soros-backed organizations of being behind the mass demonstrations against the new government’s attempt to modify anti-corruption laws.

Liviu Dragnea, who leads the governing party in Romania, said, “George Soros and the foundations and NGOs he has been setting up for years now in Romania have fed evil in Romania; he has financed various actions and none of them has done any good for the country.”

An anti-Soros campaign has been launched in Serbia where the prominent billionaire financier is accused by critics of “destabilizing” the state.

Soros is a Hungarian refugee who moved to the UK in 1947.

The Soros Foundation hit back at the allegations, arguing that the attacks on his NGOs came from governments that were failing to address social and economic issues.

Bulgaria

Commissioner Kyriakides visits Bulgaria and meets with President Radev

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Today (17 June), Commissioner Stella Kyriakides (pictured) will be in Sofia, Bulgaria, where she will meet with President Rumen Radev in the morning, followed by a meeting with caretaker Health Minister Stoycho Katzarov. Discussions will focus on the EU Vaccines Strategy and the roll-out of the national vaccination campaign in Bulgaria, as well as the way forward on the proposals under the European Health Union. This will be followed by a visit of Commissioner Kyriakides to the vaccination centre at St. Anna University Medical Centre. Ahead of the visit to Bulgaria, Health and Food Safety Commissioner Kyriakides said: “I look forward to seeing first-hand the state of play of the Bulgarian vaccination campaign roll-out and how we can support further progress. We will also focus our discussions on the way towards a strong European Health Union and how we can collectively strengthen crisis preparedness for Bulgaria and all Member States.” After the visit to the vaccination centre, the Commissioner and the Minister will hold a joint press point.

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The caretaker government in Bulgaria attacks public service television in an attempt to silence the opposition

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The public service television in Bulgaria – BNT (Bulgarian National Television) is experiencing an unprecedented institutional attack. The government, represented by the Minister of Culture Velislav Minekov, has openly insisted on the resignation of BNT Director General Emil Koshlukov on account of disapproval of the editorial policy of the media and threat to the national security of the country. The leaders of political party „Democratic Bulgaria“, as well as of „There is Such a People“, which is close to the President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev, have also criticized the media chief.

In his response to the Bulgarian Minister of Culture, Emil Koshlukov reminded him that according to the Radio and Television Act, the Minister has no right to interfere in the editorial policy of the television. He added that such repression happens only in North Korea and for the first time in the history of BNT, the executive allows itself so impudently and unceremoniously to daunt journalists.

However, for the fourth day in a row, Minister Minekov has not stopped attacking. He is the son of Velichko Minekov, who is the sculptor closest to the communist dictator Todor Zhivkov and who played a strong role in the Communist Party’s nomenclature before the fall of the Iron Curtain. Velislav Minekov continues the family tradition of using art as a bridge to power. His works are part of the collection of the oligarch Vassil Bojkov, who was sanctioned by the United States under the Global Magnitsky Act. Bojkov publicly acknowledged that he had paid for and managed the protests in Bulgaria last summer, and Minekov was their organisational leader. This leads to reasoned assumptions that Minekov helped Bojkov to overthrow the government of Boyko Borissov, in return of making him a minister in the caretaker government of President Radev.

Meanwhile, BNT continues to be attacked by other organizations, which stood behind the protests in the summer of 2020. Another organization that asked for Emil Koshlukov’s resignation is the BOEC civil movement. They were made public due their close contacts with another oligarch who fled abroad from Bulgarian justice – Tsvetan Vassilev. What all attacks have in common is not only the time, but also the goal, namely to silence the voice of the opposition from GERB.

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Treasury sanctions influential Bulgarian individuals and their expansive networks for engaging in corruption

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The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned three Bulgarian individuals under the "Magnitsky Act" for their extensive roles in corruption in Bulgaria, as well as their networks encompassing 64 entities.  The Administration believes corruption degrades the rule of law, weakens economies and economic growth, undermines democratic institutions, perpetuates conflict, and deprives innocent civilians of fundamental human rights, and today’s action — the single largest action targeting corruption to date — demonstrates the Department of the Treasury’s ongoing effort to hold accountable those involved in corruption. 

The US government will continue to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who engage in corruption and work to protect the global financial system from abuse.

“The United States stands with all Bulgarians who strive to root out corruption by promoting accountability for corrupt officials who undermine the economic functions and democratic institutions of Bulgaria,” said Office of Foreign Assets Control Director Andrea M. Gacki.  “Not only does corruption deprive citizens of resources, it can erode the institutions intended to protect them.  This designation under the Global Magnitsky sanctions programme shows that we are committed to combatting corruption wherever it may be.”

This action targets Vassil Kroumov Bojkov, a prominent Bulgarian businessman and oligarch; Delyan Slavchev Peevski, a former Member of Parliament; Ilko Dimitrov Zhelyazkov, the former Deputy Chief of the Bulgarian State Agency for Technical Operations who was appointed to the National Bureau for Control on Special Intelligence-Gathering Devices; and the companies owned or controlled by the respective individuals.  These individuals and entities are designated pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world.  These sanctions coincide with complementary actions taken by the US Department of State to publicly designate Peevski and Zhelyazkov, among others, under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act due to their involvement in significant corruption.

The designations constitute the largest Global Magnitsky action taken on a single day in the history of the programme, targeting over 65 individuals and entities for their significant acts of corruption in Bulgaria. 

The corrupt activities undertaken by the individuals designated today demonstrate how pervasive corruption goes hand-in-hand with other illicit activity.  The breadth of today’s action shows that the United States will support the rule of law and impose costs on public officials and those connected to them who use government institutions for personal profit.  Today’s designation exposes Bojkov, Peevski, and Zhelyazkov for abusing public institutions for profit and cuts off these individuals’ and their companies’ access to the US financial system.  To further protect the international financial system from abuse by corrupt actors, Treasury encourages all governments to implement appropriate and effective anti-money laundering measures to address corruption vulnerabilities.

These actions send a strong signal that the United States stands with all Bulgarians who strive to root out corruption.  We are committed to helping our partners realize their full economic and democratic potential by tackling systemic corruption and holding corrupt officials accountable.  Treasury remains committed to working with Bulgaria to address money laundering reforms that lead to financial transparency and accountability.  We call upon regulators to communicate the risks of doing business with these corrupt officials and their companies.  

Vassil Kroumov Bojkov (Bojkov), a Bulgarian businessman and oligarch, has bribed government officials on several occasions.  These officials include a current political leader and the former Chairman of the now-abolished State Commission on Gambling (SCG).  Bojkov also planned to provide a sum of money to a former Bulgarian official and a Bulgarian politician earlier this year to help Bojkov create a channel for Russian political leaders to influence Bulgarian government officials.

Bojkov is currently in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where he successfully evaded Bulgarian extradition on a number of charges levied in 2020, including leading an organized crime group, coercion, attempted bribery of an official, and tax evasion.  In its investigation, the Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Bulgaria found that in February 2018, Bojkov paid the then-Chair of the SCG 10,000 Bulgarian Lev (approximately $6,220) on a daily basis to revoke Bojkov’s competitors’ gambling licenses.  Following this massive bribery scheme, the Chair of the SCG resigned, was arrested, and the SCG was abolished.  There remains an international warrant for Bojkov’s arrest as his influence continues in Bulgaria.  In advance of the July 2021 Bulgarian parliamentary elections, Bojkov registered a political party that will run candidates in the aforementioned elections to target Bulgarian politicians and officials.

Bojkov is designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 for being a person who has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery. 

OFAC is also designating 58 entities, including Bulgarian Summer, registered in Bulgaria that are owned or controlled by Bojkov or one of his companies:

  • Vabo-2005 EOOD, Digital Services EAD, Ede 2 EOOD, Nove Internal EOOD, Moststroy Iztok AD, Galenit Invest AD, Vabo 2008 EOOD, Vertex Properties EOOD, VB Management EOOD, Va Bo Company EOOD, Vabo Management EOOD, Vabo 2012 EOOD, Prim BG EAD, Eurogroup Engineering EAD, Kristiano GR 53 JSC AD, Nove-AD-Holding AD, Bul Partners Travel OOD, Bullet Trade OOD, Caritex Lucky AD, Sizif V OOD, Thrace Foundation, Vabo Internal AD, and Bulgarian Summer are owned or controlled by Bojkov.
  • Rex Loto AD is owned or controlled by Vabo-2005 EOOD.
  • Eurobet Partners OOD is owned or controlled by Digital Services EAD.
  • Eurobet OOD is owned or controlled by Eurobet Partners OOD.
  • Eurobet Trading EOOD is owned or controlled by Eurobet OOD.
  • Vabo Systems EOOD, Vato 2002 EOOD, Nove Development EOOD, Property-VB OOD, Trans Nove OOD, Nove Partners OOD, Adler BG AD, Efbet Partners OOD, and Internews 98 OOD are owned or controlled by Nove Internal EOOD.
  • Eurosadruzhie OOD and Decart OOD are owned or controlled by Vabo Systems EOOD.
  • Numerical Games OOD, Lottery Distributions OOD, National Lottery OOD, and Eurofootball OOD are owned or controlled by Eurosadruzhie OOD.
  • National Lottery AD is owned or controlled by Nove Development EOOD.
  • Meliora Academica EOOD, Domino Games OOD, and ML Build EAD are owned or controlled by Decart OOD.
  • Games Unlimited OOD is owned or controlled by VB Management EOOD.
  • Evrobet - Rumania EOOD and Old Games EOOD are owned or controlled by Games Unlimited OOD.
  • Vihrogonika AD is owned or controlled by Vabo Management EOOD.
  • Vabo 2017 OOD and Lottery BG OOD are owned or controlled by Vabo 2012 EOOD.
  • Siguro EOOD is owned or controlled by Eurogroup Engineering EAD.
  • Trakia-Papir 96 OOD, Parkstroy-Sofia OOD, Publishing House Sport LTD, and CSKA Basketball Club are owned or controlled by Nove-AD-Holding AD.
  • Ancient Heritage AD is owned or controlled by Thrace Foundation.

Delyan Slavchev Peevski (Peevski) is an oligarch who previously served as a Bulgarian MP and media mogul and has regularly engaged in corruption, using influence peddling and bribes to protect himself from public scrutiny and exert control over key institutions and sectors in Bulgarian society.  In September 2019, Peevski actively worked to negatively influence the Bulgarian political process in the October 27, 2019 municipal elections.  Peevski negotiated with politicians to provide them with political support and positive media coverage in return for receiving protection from criminal investigations.

Peevski also engaged in corruption through his front man Ilko Dimitrov Zhelyazkov (Zhelyazkov), the former Deputy Chief of the Bulgarian State Agency for Technical Operations and former Bulgarian State Agency for National Security (DANS) officer who was appointed to the National Bureau for Control on Special Intelligence-Gathering Devices.  Peevski used Zhelyazkov to conduct a bribery scheme involving Bulgarian residency documents for foreign persons, as well as to bribe government officials through various means in exchange for their information and loyalty.  For example, as of 2019, Zhelyazkov was known for offering bribes to senior Bulgarian government officials who were expected to provide information to Zhelyazkov for onward passage to Peevski.  In return, Zhelyazkov would see that individuals who accepted his offer were placed in positions of authority and also provided a monthly bribe.  Peevski and Zhelyazkov also had an official placed in a leadership position to embezzle funds to them in 2019.  In another example, as of early 2018, these two government officials ran a scheme to sell Bulgarian residency documents where company representatives purportedly paid bribes to Bulgarian officials to ensure their clients received citizenship documents immediately rather than making the $500,000 deposit or waiting the five years for a legitimate request to be processed.  Lastly, Zhelyazkov also blackmailed a potential Bulgarian government minister with criminal charges from Bulgaria’s Prosecutor General’s office if the minister did not provide him further assistance upon appointment.

Peevski and Zhelyazkov are designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 for being foreign persons who are current or former government officials, or persons acting for or on behalf of such an official, who are responsible for or complicit in, or who have directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery. 

OFAC is also designating six entities registered in Bulgaria that are owned or controlled by Peevski or one of his companies:

  • Int Ltd EOOD and Intrust PLC EAD are owned or controlled by Peevski.
  • BM Systems EAD, Int Invest EOOD, Inttrafik EOOD, and Real Estates Int Ltd EOOD are owned or controlled by Intrust PLC EAD.

As a result, all property and interests in property of the persons above that are in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.  In addition, any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50% or more by one or more blocked persons are also blocked.  Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC, or otherwise exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by US persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons.  The prohibitions include the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any blocked person or the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

Building upon the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, E.O. 13818 was issued on December 20, 2017, in recognition that the prevalence of human rights abuse and corruption that have their source, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States, had reached such scope and gravity as to threaten the stability of international political and economic systems.  Human rights abuse and corruption undermine the values that form an essential foundation of stable, secure, and functioning societies; have devastating impacts on individuals; weaken democratic institutions; degrade the rule of law; perpetuate violent conflicts; facilitate the activities of dangerous persons; and undermine economic markets.  The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who commit serious human rights abuse or engage in corruption, as well as to protect the financial system of the United States from abuse by these same persons.

Click here to view more information on the designation.

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