On December 9, 2019, Greece canceled an apostille for a counterfeit maritime mortgage that served a Bulgarian criminal group to hijack the tanker BADR through illegal acts committed by a Private Law Enforcement Agent (PLEA) and to remove physically its crew with assistance from the Maritime Administration, Border Police and a brigade of thugs. In addition, the Greek authorities accuse of forgery the manager of the Bulgargeomin company, Assen Kavdansky, along with his Greek accomplice, Georgios Lapas. There is a European arrest warrant for Kavdansky. The Court ruled that he must be detained at the time of his surrender (see the rule here).
The criminal group has tried several times unsuccessfully to register the tanker in another country, changing its name and ownership. So far, three jurisdictions – Panama, Belize and Cameroon – have canceled the registration of the vessel under their flag. The tanker, which is still anchored in the Bulgarian Bay of Burgas, is currently de jure and de facto under its original Libyan registration with the State-owned Libyan company GNMTC. This is what Mohamed Ellahresh, a representative of the company told Bivol. After the annulment of the apostille, Libya is now preparing to notify Bulgaria formally that there are no longer grounds to keep the tanker detained.
We recall that on December 21, 2018, thugs from Bashev Team & Security, led by Alexander Longochev (in the headline photo on the left), a police officer from the special police task force in the Bulgarian capital Sofia, forcibly removed the Libyan crew from the tanker. The ship’s captain complained that he had been mistreated in the presence of Maritime Administration and Border Police officers. They installed a new Ukrainian crew, whose captain tried to flee with the tanker from Bulgarian territorial waters but the Border Police brought it back. To date, BADR remains anchored in the Bay of Burgas.
After the scandal erupted, the Interior Ministry was forced to admit Longochev’s involvement and he was fired. The BADR raid even found place in a report by the US Office of Naval Intelligence, listing Bulgaria as a country endangered by maritime piracy. The fate of BADR became an international issue, which Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and his Libyan counterpart discussed at a bilateral meeting.
The diplomatic efforts are yet to yield a result and the tanker remains in the Bay of Burgas. The official position of Sofia is that the ownership of the ship is subject to a “private legal dispute”. However, it is a real
Criminal scheme the Bulgarian prosecution is aware of
The apostille on the counterfeit mortgage has long been a lifeline for the Bulgarian authorities, who have defended the hijacking of a Libyan tanker. Referring to it, Transport Minister Rosen Zhelyazkov told the public Bulgarian National Television (BNT) that Bulgargeomin’s documents had been in order and that in the opinion of the Bulgarian government the maritime mortgage is valid.
Bulgaria’s newly-elected Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev recently pushed the same argument about a “private legal dispute” at a hearing in the European Parliament, where Romanian MEP Ramona Strugariu asked him about the involvement of Bulgarian MEP Emil Radev in the talks and negotiations with Libyan representatives.
Bivol previously revealed that Radev and arms dealer Nikolaycho Gigov had attended these talks in Tripoli in August 2018. They had suggested to representatives to arrange for Emil Radev to assist in the release of BADR against EUR 4.5 million.
However, Geshev was forced to admit formally that the prosecution had been conducting criminal proceedings into the counterfeit mortgage. Their stage is unknown. Still, Geshev failed to even mention the European arrest warrant for Assen Kavdansky, accused in Greece of complicity in the preparation of the forgery.
The annulment of the apostille by the Greek Court eliminates the last legal argument and evidence relied on by Bulgarian officials to justify the detention of the tanker. However, because of the official position of the Transport Minister and the intervention of MEP Emil Radev, doubts remain that these officials had been acting as an accomplice to the criminal group.
Greek Court: An official document has been forged for the purpose of profiting from BADR
The Greek Prosecutor’s Office indictment against Georgios Lapas and Assen Kavdansky details how the counterfeit maritime mortgage has been prepared, including by falsifying the seal and signature of the Greek notary Ioanna Andreadaki. A valid apostille had been attached to the false mortgage and the documentation had been presented to the Bulgarian authorities to begin the procedure for acquiring the ownership of the tanker BADR.
On August 24, 2017, Georgios Lapas appeared in Andreadaki’s office, presenting himself as an intermediary between Bulgargeomin and the Libyan company Libyan Navigator, which, he said, wanted to sign a mortgage contract. She prepared the documents and handed the drafts to Lapas to show them to the proxies of Bulgargeomin and the Libyan side. The representative of Bulgargeomin Assen Kavdansky has accompanied Lapas at one of the meetings.
However, on the scheduled date and time no one showed up to sign the mortgage. It is proven now that the drafts have been used to produce a fake mortgage document with Andreadaki’s forged signature and seal.
The Court rejected Georgios Lapas’ defense that Assen Kavdansky had prepared the fake document as irrelevant because Kavdansky does not speak or understand Greek and there is proof that Lapas had served as a translator for him and the notary.
According to the judges, Kavdansky had “an interest and motive for registering a maritime mortgage by using false documents as a legal representative of Bulgargeomin”.
In the end, the Court ruled that Lapas must remain in custody and Kavdansky must accompany him after his apprehension and handing over to the Greek authorities. The two are charged with the use of a forged document for material gain exceeding EUR 120,000. Lapas is currently in a psychiatric clinic at the Corridalos prison in Athens, and there is a European arrest warrant for Kavdansky.
Georgios Lapas, 46, is married to a Bulgarian citizen, reported Το Βήμα last year after his arrest. In the Bulgarian registers, he appears under the name Georgios Polycarpos Lapas in the companies Design Shops and GL Consulting, Bivol established. A person named George Lapas is a creditor of another company owned by a Greek citizen, and at his request, there is an attachment for assets worth EUR 40,000.
Bulgargeomin, the “Titans”, State Security and Investbank
The claimant for the ownership of the Libyan tanker is the “ad-hoc” company Bulgargeomin Ltd., which asserts to be the heir of the State-owned company of the same name, but in fact, it has nothing to do with it. Bulgargeomin Ltd. claims to have purchased from the bankrupt State-owned company Bulgargeomin a receivable from the Libyan State dating from 1995.
It turns out that all actions of Bulgargeomin Ltd. before the Bulgarian courts and the PLEA to obtain the BADR tanker are based on a proven illegal document – a maritime mortgage from a Greek notary, which had been falsified in a very brazen manner.
The criminal group that took over the tanker presents itself in the legal world as Bulgargeomin Ltd., an association that includes the companies Tectona, Moran Trade and Moran West. Ventsislav Krastev from the western city of Pernik is the formal manager of Bulgargeomin Ltd.. Companies of the notorious owner of the waste management company Titan, Dimitar Yossifov Borisov (in the headline photo in the center) had been transferred to Krastev in early 2018.
Assen Kavdansky, Lapas’ accomplice in the preparation of the counterfeit mortgage in Athens, presents himself before the media as the manager of the company.
Tectona is connected to lawyer Tsvetan Tsanev (Zwetan Tsanev), who has been involved in the trafficking of amphetamines (captagone) in the 1990s and the banker from Bulgarian private lender Investbank Dimitriika Andreeva, representing an “Omani Investor”. Assen Kavdansky is also closely linked to the group around Tectona, data from the Commercial Register show.
An earlier investigation by Bivol, together with our Italian colleagues of IRPI/ANCIR, revealed Tsvetan Tsanev’s involvement in a Cosa Nostra business with diamonds in Africa, where he appeared as a European investor in a joint diamond-trading venture.
Another investigation showed that lawyer Tsvetan Tsanev is also a key figure in the “Venezuelan Laundromat” affair. According to US authorities, an account at Investbank has been registered to his name, used to funnel tens of millions of Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., the Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company (PDVSA) for the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
It demonstrated that Tsanev, a former agent of the Communist regime’s special services – the State Security (DS), has had in the past close business relations with individuals from the so-called “Bankya Circle” over oil business with Russia. One of these individuals is Dimitar Sabev, whose relative Nedyalko Nedyalkov is a Deputy Head of Bulgaria’s National Security Agency (DANS) – the institution tasked with detecting cases of money laundering.
What is MEP Emil Radev doing in this scheme?
At the beginning of August 2018, Bulgarian MEP Emil Radev (ruling party Citizens of European Development of Bulgaria, GERB/European People’s Party, EPP), together with arms dealer Nikolaycho Gigov and Dimitar Borisov from the waste management company Titan, flew to Tripoli. They had a proposal to the State-owned Libyan company General National Maritime Transport Company (GNMTC) – a consultancy contract with a law office associated with Radev for EUR 4.5 million against assistance for the release of the hijacked in Bulgaria Libyan tanker BADR.
Bivol published Radev’s and Gigov’s visa application. They have sent copies of their passports to the Libyan Ministry of Transport to get the visas. Mohamed Ellahresh, the official GNMTC negotiator in the tanker case, provided by phone details of their visit.
“Yes, I can confirm that he was in Libya and I had meetings with him between August 3 and 6, 2018,” says Ellahresh. “Mr. Radev was with two individuals named Mr. Gigov and Mr. Borisov and a Bulgarian citizen living in Libya (the latter name is Arab and cannot be deciphered from the recording). We had the impression that we are being contacted for diplomatic intervention because, obviously, Mr Radev is a person with diplomatic status, as I understand he is a Member of the European Parliament, and we believed that this was an official initiative by the Bulgarian State to solve the problem. Unfortunately, this was not the case, because when we met, our side talked about the violations by the Bulgarian administration, which are being examined in the Bulgarian court, and we were surprised that they talked about a settlement.”
As already mentioned, the settlement was to happen through a consultancy contract with a law office close to Radev for the impressive amount of EUR 4.5 million, of which EUR 1.5 million in a non-refundable prepayment, regardless of the outcome of the mediation.
“They suggested, through Maya Andreeva, a consultancy agreement, according to which GNMTC has to pay EUR 4.5 million to have the ship released. Part of the amount – EUR 1.5 million – would be non-refundable under any circumstances, whether the mediation is successful or fails, and the other part of this amount was supposed to be paid after the ship is released. Of course, such a consultancy contract for EUR 1.5 million is absurd, unreal, and we rejected the offer entirely and immediately informed Maya Andreeva via an official email. She is the person who works closely with Mr. Radev; I think she is his partner. As far as I understand, she is closely connected with the Bulgarian government in the transport sector.”
However, the Libyans had been firm that they would not submit to any form of ransom or racketeering to get back their illegally seized property and had decided to seek their rights in court to the very end. One of the largest and most respected commercial and maritime law companies globally, with headquarters in London, INCE & Co has undertaken the defense.
Asked via email about the occurrence and his actions, as well as a possible conflict with his functions as a MEP, Emil Radev replied:
“What you claim is not true. I would like to inform you that for over 20 years I have practiced law as my profession. Practicing law is authorized for both Members of the Bulgarian Parliament and Members of the European Parliament and does not constitute a conflict of interest with parliamentary activity.”
However, Radev did not specify what exactly did not correspond to the truth. At the hearing in the European Parliament, where he was asked about his mission in Libya, he did not respond either, but the incoming Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev stood in his defense, saying there had been no reports of him committing a crime related to the Libyan case.