Gambling Regulator Chair and Seven Other Officials Taken in for Questioning
Sofia, January 29 (BTA) - The chairman of the Gambling
Commission, Alexander Georgiev, was taken in for questioning
Wednesday along with seven other officials. The move was
announced by the prosecution service after an operation of
police and prosecutors, which is part of a probe at the Gambling
Commission over unpaid fees by operators.
The gambling sector has been in the limelight since mid-January
when MPs of the power-sharing United Patriots coalition tabled
revisions to the gambling legislation aiming to ban private
lotteries. That was largely seen to be aimed against business
mogul Vassil Bozhkov, whose Nove Holding owns the hugely popular
Lottery Bulgaria and National Lottery.
The revisions were approved in Parliament on principle on
Several days after the ban on private lotteries was tabled to
the legislature, an audit at the Gambling Commission found that
private lottery operators have underpaid by hundreds of millions
of leva the fees their owe to the State. The lottery operators
said they did so on the instructions of the Gambling Commission.
The CEO of Bozhkov's National Lottery said that the law allows
operators to pick one of two methods for calculating the fees
(one based on turnover and the other on earnings) - hence the
suspicions about unpaid fees.
Bozhkov has accused the State of aiming to take over a
successful business and threatened to take the matter to court.
Popularly known by his nickname of earlier years, the Skull,
Bozhkov was described in a classified 2009 report by the US
Embassy, that was made public by Wikileaks, as "Bulgaria's most
infamous gangster" who was "slowly moving out of the organized
crime business". He has since grown to be one of the wealthiest
He topped the Forbes list of the ten richest persons in Bulgaria
in 2018 with a net worth of 1.35 billion leva (from Nove
Holding and Putishta Holdings, and businesses in a wide range of
sectors, ranging from gambling to road construction and railway
On Wednesday, police and investigators carried out searches at
addresses owned by him. Various media reported that Bozhkov had
fled the country. He told dnevnik.bg that he was out of the
country on business, that the law enforcers had not tried to
reach him and that he was ready to return to Bulgaria if asked
to so. Bozhkov did not reveal his whereabouts. NV/LN