A lot of people have been asking us: "What is going on?"; "Why has the copublisher of 'Capital' Ivo Prokopiev been charged?" Here is our (the journalists at "Capital") explanation:
The short of it is that the long-standing efforts at crushing "Capital" into the ground have grown hysterical and visible for all to see. The reason is that "Capital" has remained one of the few independent voices in Bulgaria. "Capital" is the media of free people.
Darkness has been creeping over Bulgaria in recent years. The network of interests behind GERB, DPS, and the other parties in power has consumed more and more of the political system, the judiciary, the public finance sector, and EU funds, and utilizes them to control an ever larger share of business. The same forces have gradually yet inexorably drowned out the voices of the free media one by one. Meanwhile the pressure put on the survivors is intensifying - when only a few remain standing, it becomes easier to see how oppressed everybody else is. Media are key for state capture and the plan works best if all the media are subjugated.
One does not need a law degree to see that the charges against Ivo Prokopiev (and with him former finance minister Simeon Dyankov, Traicho Traikov - currently, a mayor of the central district of the city of Sofia, and a few other people) that the court will rule on this Sunday, June 28, are completely farcical. We have long been aware that the Specialized Prosecution's case is motivated by the desire to punish Ivo for upholding over the years the same basic values, upon which "Capital" rests - to be free, to be principled, and to be brave. We have reached the milestone when that might lead to incarceration. Ivo stands accused today, but all of us at "Capital" stand with him in the courtroom.
We have been through a lot together.
Back in the mid-90s when brute force ruled the streets, mobs of bouncers, hired by the then ubiquitous "Multigroup", blockaded "Ivan Vazov" street in Sofia where our editorial office is after an investigation by the paper exposed "the spider system". In 1998 Minio Staikov charged into the editorial office to demand an end to an investigation into "Sys Industries" for alcohol smuggling and he threatened the journalists on the case with physical assault. Staikov was only arrested and investigated by the prosecution a full 21 years later.
In 1999 the journalist Alexei Lazarov was brutally beaten with bats and metal rods, because of an editorial alleging that those in power had links with the mafia.
In 2000 in its first print edition, "Dnevnik", "Economedia"'s other publication, revealed in an investigation that the then chief prosecutor Nikola Filchev Borisov's brother, Angel Borisov, had been part of an antique smuggling operation, but had been released from custody with his brother's protections. What followed from the Prosecution's office was an unspeakable reaction towards the paper's journalists and publishers. The company that was publishing "Capital" at the time was subjected to monthly tax investigations that bordered on the comical. The car of the court reporter Momchil Milev was set on fire by unknown parties. After some time the prosecutor Nikolai Kolev admitted in front of reporters from the paper that the arson had been committed under the patronage of military prosecutors. Kolev was murdered two years later.
In 2009 "Capital" proved in an investigation that Corporate Commercial Bank (KTB) was in fact a pyramid scheme that was apart from everything else using state resources to buy out media that eventually turned out to be owned by the controversial politician/investor/business mogul Delyan Peevski. Over the course of five years the paper asked those in power questions about the bank and warned about the risks. This led to threats to the lives of Galya and Ivo Prokopievi, who were forced to leave the country. KTB collapsed in 2014.
Again in 2009 "Capital" carried out an investigation into one of the most brutal violations along the Black Sea coast - the destruction of the Seal Bay close to Sozopol. The perpetrator of the violation first attempted to bribe the journalists, so that they wouldn't write anything. He then doubled the money on offer and when he realized that wouldn't work, he bought the paper's entire circulation out in an attempt to hide the truth. What followed was an attack against one of the investigation's authors, Yovo Nikolov, carried out by the prosecution and the tax authorities. All of the trumped up charges fell through in court, but the harassment continued for two and half years.
The journalist Rossen Bossev was convicted for pointing out the documented involvement of the former chairman of the Financial Supervision Commission (FSC) Stoyan Mavrodiev in a case for laundering funds from drug trafficking. The defendant in that case, Evelin Banev-Brendo has earned the moniker "the cocaine king" and has been convicted in three different states.
And these are just the larger cases. Parallel to them, "Economedia" in its capacity as a publisher and Ivo and Galya Prokopievi in their personal capacity have been repeatedly subjected to rigorous tax investigations. The attacks against the publisher of "Capital" and "Dnevnik" have been ceaseless in recent years. These institutional attacks have been accompanied by constant defamation coming from publications, serving the interests of those in power. At "Capital" we have always upheld the principle that we should not bother readers with our problems, hence the facts presented are not widely known. However, what is happening is outrageous.
And when the law was not enough, no abuses or crimes were proven despite harnessing the entire state apparatus in the attempt - came the case in which Ivo Prokopiev is accused of expressing an opinion at the National Council for Tripartite Cooperation (NCTC) in 2010 in his capacity as chairman of the Confederation of Employers and Industrialists in Bulgaria (KRIB). Despite the absurdity of the allegations, they served as justification for the series of family and business asset freezes, put in place by the Anti-corruption and Confiscation of Illegally Acquired Assets Commission (KPKONPI).
We believe that this trial, which concludes on Sunday, has been designed not simply as an attack against the accused, but also as a warning to everyone to whom rules, dignity, and freedom matter.
The answer to the question "What is going on?" is that Bulgaria today is teetering dangerously on the precipice and it can crumble at any moment into something that is very far indeed from a free and democratic country. The efforts of several generations to make this country European are on their way of being squandered away. Today's Bulgaria is starting to increasingly resemble Erdogan's Turkey and Putin's Russia, where people who are free are threatened with incarceration.
Perhaps the main reason "Capital" is what it has been throughout the years and remains to this day is that it was created by people who are free, and free people work in it. Ivo was a founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of the paper in the first seven years of its existence, in which the standards "Capital" upholds in its work to this day, were set. Carrying them out requires professional and public hygiene - since we often search for (and find) the shortcomings in the actions of other people, we have to be cognizant of our own. We have chosen to be journalists not because we are going to make money from it, but because we believe that it is important to fight for principles that are vital for the proper functioning of the whole of society. The only capital we have accumulated is our good name. We are not indifferent to who we work with and thus, we carefully follow every development with the cases, investigations and asset freezes against one of "Capital"'s publishers.
And the answer to the question "Why has Ivo Prokopiev been charged?" is:
In order for "Capital"'s voice to be silenced, so that all of us have no way of knowing what is happening, and so that stealing is even easier - both from our money and from our future.
P. S. "Capital"'s editorials usually remain unsigned. This time we stand by our names, because each and every one of us understands how important this is: Alexei Lazarov, Ani Kodjaivanova, Anina Santova, Asya Stoyanova, Boyka Panova, Boryana Gencheva, Vania Katsarova, Velina Gospodinova, Vera Denizova, Desislava Nikolova, Deyan Dimitrov, Zornitsa Stoilova,Iva Roudnikova, Ivaylo Stanchev, Iglika Filipova, Yoan Zapryanov, Joana Markova, Yovo Nikolov, Kalina Goranova, Kalina Kolibarska, Kiril Kirchev, Konstantin Nikolov, Mara Georgieva, Madlen Nacheva, Marina Staneva, Maria Ivanova, Mila Cherneva, Mirela Vesselinova, Momchil Milev, Nadezhda Chipeva, Nikolai Stoyanov, Ognyan Georgiev, Plamena Katsarova, Rossen Bossev, Rumiana Chervenkova, Svetlomira Gyurova, Svetoslav Todorov, Sirma Penkova, Tamara Valcheva, Teodora Vassileva, Tihomir Kolev, Todor Todorov, Tsvetelina Belutova
A Timeline of Harassment
November 27, 2009The publication "Suspicious Unanimity" revealed that 60% of the three biggest state companies' funds are concentrated in just three banks, with 35% of them in KTB
April 16, 2010The investigation "The Fifth Power: Extortion" uncovered how Peevski's family was using funds from KTB to acquire media, which would then be utilized as instruments of blackmail in defense of KTB's model
May, June, November 2010In a series of articles "Capital" exposed malpractices in the Bulgarian Supreme Administrative Court (VAS): The investigation "A Home for Their Children" uncovered how key judges from VAS had through close relatives acquired building rights on the shoreline itself near Primorsko by declaring themselves "in extreme need". The article "Family and Friends" raised doubts in corruption about a number of suspicious activities surrounding the deputy chairman of the court Veneta Markovska."Considering the considerations of the Supreme Judicial Council" illustrated the series of controversial moments in Georgi Kolev's nomination for chairman of VAS.
May 16, 2010"Corporate (KTB) - Once Again the Bank for Those in Power" - an investigation that proved that under Borisov's first cabinet over 50% of state companies' money were now being held in KTB
June 2010The Ministry of the Interior was notified by a Western partner service about an attempt on Ivo Prokopiev's life being planned. He and his family went abroad.
December 16, 2010Based on an appeal by Irena Krasteva, the Commission for Protection of Competition imposed a fine on "Economedia" on charges of "unfair competition". The CPC ruled that "Capital"'s articles, detailing links between the KTB funded acquisition of newspapers by Krasteva and the fact that 90% of the advertising in those same publications came from KTB's group of connected firms, are in violation of the Law on Protection of Competition. The unprecedented sanction was confirmed by the Supreme Administrative Court.
May 27, 2011The article " 'Petrol' and the Petrovi Family" uncovered that the gas station chain "Petrol" is also a part of the KTB group
April 29, 2011"'Bulgartabak' - for favourites only" revealed the corrupt privatisation procedure of the tobacco holding by a group, close to KTB
June 30, 2012"BTK. Read Backwards" - showed how the telecom fell into the hands of KTB
July 7, 2012"A state of reason or of brute force?" - "Capital" exposed Bulgartabak's massive plan to establish a monopoly in thе retail distribution market , which would later become known to the public as the "Lafka" chain
December 3, 2012Out of the blue, Alfa Bank, a creditor to "Economedia", made an attempt to take control of the publishing house. It would later become known that the bank was motivated to take that line of action by the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB).
December 2012"Capital" is one of the few media that voice the question about the series of doubts in Sotir Tsatsarov's election as the new Prosecutor General. In the very first months of his mandate Tsatsarov would label "Dnevnik" and "Capital" as enemy publications because of articles criticizing the prosecution.
January 2013The Sofia City Prosecution opened an investigation in "Kaolin"'s sale by a holding connected to Ivo Prokopiev
February 2013"Dnevnik" and "Capital" published information that the chairman of the Financial Supervision Commission (KFN) Stoyan Mavrodiev is involved in the case for laundering funds from drug trafficking against the international drug trafficker Evelin Banev-Brendo.
February 2013After the revelations about Mavrodiev, the KFN, under his leadership, started an offensive against Ivo Prokopiev and his businesses. In the span of two years KFN issued Prokopiev's companies with over 100 criminal acts (наказателно постановление?), totaling in sanctions of over 1 m leva. Most of them fell through in court.
March 29, 2013"The KTB State" - a massive investigation, which illustrates why using the bank to concentrate capitals, assets and power is both illegal and dangerous.
September 6, 2013"The Spanish Connection" - an investigation, based on documents from Spanish, Italian and Bulgarian judicial authorities, showing the networks for drug trafficking, in which Brendo is involved and the mechanisms for laundering money from them, as well as Stoyan Mavrodiev's role in the case.
September 12, 2013Five days after the above publication Stoyan Mavrodiev issued a signal to the Prosecutor General regarding the sale of the remaining state share in EVN. This signal kicked off the investigation, for which Prokopiev was sent to court.
April 2014The National Revenue Agency (NAP) initiates a full tax audit of "Economedia", the "Capital" foundation and Ivo and Galya Prokopievi.
June 13, 2014"The Peevski-Vassilev Divorce" tells in detail about the painful separation between the now ex-partners. In the coming months "Capital" would meticulously follow the processes surrounding KTB's demolition and the role of the Prosecution, which entered the fray to aid Delyan Peevski in the secondary looting of the bank's assets. In different articles "Capital" seeks answers from the responsible supervisory institutions on why they allowed the KTB bubble to happen.
January 15, 2015After a several months long investigation KFN issues Economedia with record fines for "market manipulation". Even the company's manager was sanctioned for not revealing the publications' sources of information.
September 9, 2016"Capital" publishes an interview with Tsvetan Vassilev as part of the "KTB Files" project. The interview poses the question of what PM Borisov and Delyan Peevski's roles are in the ownership of "Bulgartabak". Slightly after the interview Borisov would attack Ivo Prokopiev openly.
December 2016 - January 2017The Prosecution starts raising charges in the EVN case. Simeon Dyankow and Traicho Traikov are charged in an ostensible and theatrical manner with Prokopiev to soon follow. At the same time the Prosecution raises charges for other ministers from the "Blue Coalition" - Daniel Mitov, Hristo Angelichin, Nikolai Nenchev and Peter Moskov.
The court returns the charges against Ivo Prokopiev in the EVN case back to the prosecution twice, in October and November 2017, because of serious flaws in the indictment.
November 17, 2017"The octopus is hungry. And he is inviting you for dinner" reveals how the government and the prosecution have actively started to participate in the theft of business from their rightful owners.
December 2017The Confiscation of Illegally Acquired Assets Commission freezes business and family assets, held by Ivo Prokopiev
January 2018The EVN case is brought to the Specialized criminal court, where the trial starts.
July 27, 2018"Hey investors, come to papa" - an investigation into the CHEZ and "Nova TV" deals demonstrates the key role Borisov plays in approving big transactions.
July 2018Prosecution raises a second charge against Ivo Prokopiev - for money laundering from the sale of "Kaolin" - an investigation, which had begun six years earlier
March 8, 2019.
"The oligarchs' coffer" - under the leadership of Stoyan Mavrodiev the state Bulgarian Development Bank (BBR) gives more and more loans to businesses that are close to those in power and which no one else wants to finance. Half of the bank's credit portfolio is now concentrated in 10 groups, among which there are names such as Peevski, the Domuschievi brother, and Georgi Samuilov.
May-June 2019"Whatever the padishah desires" - about GERB's role in the "laundering" of Ahmed Dogan and the state gifts for Dogan's business.
Peevski's hidden demesnes - what the member of parliament for DPS controls.
"Elections: The Technology of subordination" - how GERB and DPS win elections.
"Kovachki's Resurrected Empire" - how Kovachki enfolded the energy sector under the government's patronage; An electricity broker has an empire worth 1.5 bln leva