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Bulgarian oligarch tries to get off Magnitsky list

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Bulgarian oligarch Vasil Bozhkov, who returned home from Dubai on Friday after three years in hiding from multiple criminal charges, is trying to get off the US sanctions list under the Global Magnitsky Act, where he ended up in the summer of 2021.

Bozhkov, charged with contract killings, extortion, and avoiding hundreds of millions of euros in state fees for his gambling business, was also sanctioned for corruption by Great Britain in February of this year.

“For more than two years, my client has cooperated 100% with the American authorities, and every time we had the opportunity, during interrogations, we asked when it would be convenient for him to go home, clear his name in front of Bulgarian justice and finish once and for all with these cases here”, lawyer Stoyan Baumeyer told bTV and added that so far they have presented to the American authorities more than 25,000 pages of materials.

Bozhkov was interrogated seven times in Dubai by US officials, including questions about the former prime minister and leader of the largest Bulgarian GERB party, Boyko Borissov and the former finance minister Vladislav Goranov (GERB).

The interrogations were an attempt to remove Vasil Bozhkov from the Magnitsky list. Goranov himself was also sanctioned for corruption under the Magnitsky Act this February. Bozhkov claims he paid more than EUR30 million in bribes to Boyko Borissov and Vladislav Goranov.

Baumayer explained that to get off the Magnitsky list, Bozhkov must pay a sum of money. “It’s not something extraordinary, it’s not some millions”, the lawyer said. By the end of September, Vasil Bozhkov will provide more information to the US authorities, Baumayer pointed out, without going into details. “It will not be an interrogation but something else,” he said.

The Bulgarian prosecutor’s office questioned Bozhkov as a witness about his statements that he had given bribes to Borissov and Goranov.

Bozhkov’s other lawyer, Georgi Gatev, said after the interrogation that Bozhkov confirmed his allegations about the bribes to the prosecutor’s office. After the interrogation, security was assigned to Bozhkov, who has been detained since he landed in Sofia. The businessman’s family will also have state security, following a request made when he threatened to testify against Borisov.

The return of Bozhkov to Bulgaria is a significant risk for political stability in the country due to the political connections of the businessman, who, before 2020, built a huge empire of companies in the field of gambling. At the peak of his business, the revenues of the companies he controlled were in the amount of several per cent of the gross domestic product of the entire country.

At the end of last week, the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office announced that there were contacts between Bozhkov’s companies and the late Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, which is unlikely to help the Bulgarians with his hope of getting off the Magnitsky list.

(Krassen Nikolov

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