Prosecutor's Office to Examine Private Enforcement Agent's Actionsin Libyan Tanker Case
Bourgas, on the Black Sea, January 11 (BTA) - The Bourgas District Prosecutor's Office will check whether a private enforcement agent committed an offence in the case of the takeover of a Libyan tanker by a Bulgarian company in Bulgarian territorial waters. Pre-trial proceedings have been launched, the Prosecutor's Office said.
The probe is to find out whether between March and August 2018 the private enforcement agent failed to perform his official duties and exceeded his powers to secure benefits for others, which may have serious consequences.
The Prosecutor's Office said the proceedings were launched on December 21, 2018, when the matter was referred to it by attorneys representing the tanker's Libyan owner.
The tanker was arrested at the port of Bourgas in November 2017. Bulgargeomin claimed that Libya owed it 9,250,000 US dollars secured by a maritime mortgage, and demanded foreclosure. Although the court closed the case and ordered the tanker released, the private enforcement agent performed unlawful actions, announcing a public auction at which Bulgargeomin was the only bidder.
Investigative journalism website Bivol.bg revealed the steps taken by the private enforcement agent, Totko Kolev, to ensure the new owner's entry into possession. On December 21, Kolev boarded the ship along with bodyguards, border guards and Maritime Administration officers. The captain and crew were forced to abandon the ship. The Libyan flag was taken down and the ship has been sailing under a Panamanian flag since December 28.
Currently, the ship is in the Black Sea, outside Bulgaria's territorial waters.
The case was covered by the media last week, when Libyan authorities threatened to arrest all Bulgarian ships that enter Libyan waters, as well as any vessel that has among its owners a Bulgarian company or such registered in Bulgaria. Transport Minister Rossen Zhelyazkov, who was the only Bulgarian official to comment on the case, said it was a trade dispute. The Foreign Ministry held consultations with the Bulgarian Maritime Administration but details were not published.