Court in Belgrade to Proceed with Hearing of Failed Banker Tzvetan Vassilev on April 6

Court in Belgrade to Proceed with Hearing of Failed Banker Tzvetan Vassilev on April 6

Belgrade, March 16 (BTA Special Correspondent Dimiter Abrashev) - For more than an hour on Wednesday, the High Court in Belgrade heard the testimony of banker Tzvetan Vassilev, who is fighting an extradition request from Bulgaria.

On July 28, 2014, the Bulgarian prosecution authorities charged Vassilev in his absence with embezzling 206 million leva from Corpbank, He was put on Interpol's wanted list, and a European Arrest Warrant for him was issued.

On September 16, 2014, Vassilev turned himself in to the Serbian authorities, and since then he has had to sign at Belgrade's Central Police Department every day as a precaution that he would not leave the country or go into hiding. On September 18, the Bulgarian prosecution service sent an extradition request for Vassilev to the competent Serbian judicial authorities.

Vassilev was the majority shareholder in the Corporate Commercial Bank, which collapsed in 2014. Bulgaria wants him extradited back home to stand trial for syphoning his own bank.

Approached by Bulgarian correspondents, Vassilev said he had informed the court that the bank he managed had come under a "raider attack". "That attack was well motivated politically and was backed by all State institutions, and above all by the prosecuting magistracy," he argued. He declined to answer any other questions from journalists.

Under the law, the judge who heard Vassilev on Wednesday will not decide on the merits of the extradition request. This will be done by another judge. After that, the High Court decision can be challenged before the appellate court. The final say on the matter belongs to Serbia's Justice Minister.

Vassilev's Serbian lawyer Vladimir Beljanski said he does not know how long the extradition procedure will take. "I can only tell you that this is the regular part of the extradition procedure before our court and will go on for some more time. Everybody are doing their job. The procedure is in progress, and nothing unusual is happening, compared to the rest of the procedures," the lawyer said. Asked by a journalist whether any new evidence has appeared, Beljanski declined to elaborate, saying that "this is not a procedure open to the public."

The precautionary measure to secure Vassilev's appearance has been relaxed. He is now required to sign at Belgrade's Central Police Department once in several weeks.

According to official information, Vassilev has not sought assistance from the Bulgarian diplomatic mission in Serbia over the last year and a half.

The court will proceed with Vassilev's hearing on April 6.

Quoting Serbian journalists in Belgrade, Bulgarian National Television (BNT) reported in Wednesday that Vassilev had applied for Serbian citizenship, probably because Serbia does not extradite its nationals. BNT also learnt off the record that more than a year ago Vassilev sought political asylum in Serbia but was refused because he was wanted by a EU Member State and Serbia is aspiring to accede to the EU.

Source: Belgrade