Charged Gambling Mogul Urges Finance Minister to Resign, Fears for His Life if He Returns
May 8 (BTA) - Gambling mogul Vassil Bojkov claimed that he is innocent of the 11 charges brought against him in Bulgaria and urged Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov to resign. In an exclusive telephone interview for bTV from Dubai on Friday morning, Bojkov said he was afraid for his life if he returned home because Bulgaria is "currently governed by a junta" and does not respect the rule of law. Bojkov said he could come back to Bulgaria when his case reaches the court, hoping that he will be tried objectively.
The businessman, considered to be the wealthiest Bulgarian with assets worth between 1.5 and 3 billion leva, was charged in Bulgaria on January 29, 2020 with evasion of more than 700 million leva in gambling licensing fees, money laundering, extortion, bribery, murder, rape, leading an organized crime group since 2014, trading in influence, and unlawful possession of cultural assets. He left the country before the full-scale crackdown against him, was put on an Interpol Red Notice, and was arrested in the UAE on January 31. Bojkov told bTV that he had been released after spending some three weeks at the Al Wathba Prison, now holds resident status, and is free to leave the country but risks being arrested if he does so.
The fugitive from justice said he had not met with Bulgarian officials in Dubai and had not been contacted by Bulgarian prosecutors even though he answers his phone. He noted that the warrant for his arrest was issued two days after he left Bulgaria on business.
"There is not a single substantiated charge against me," the interviewee argued. He dismissed as groundless a statement by Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev, who described him as "the most dangerous Bulgarian". "Presenting people as guilty without an enforceable sentence is unlawful. Only totalitarian regimes adopt such practices," Bojkov argued.
He urged Vladislav Goranov to resign as Finance Minister because he either connived or ignored legislative amendments initiated by GERB that enabled Bojkov's scratch-card lotteries to pay lower licensing fees than the Bulgarian Sports Totalizator. Bojkov said that his assets had been wrongfully frozen by the National Revenue Agency (NRA) and accused Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in person of ruining his companies. The interviewee argued that the PM used the prosecution service, the State Agency for National Security and the NRA as "baseball bats" to force him out of business.
Bojkov said he had frequent personal contacts about his gambling operations with Goranov, who was thus aware of the way his accountants applied the law. The businessman denied having had any contacts with Gambling Commission members.
Bojkov said he will sue Bulgaria in a London court for mishandling his collection of ancient artefacts, which he described as "a crime against humanity". "Geshev the Taliban and his minions are destroying world cultural and historical heritage," he argued.
Approached about the dire financial straits of PFC Levski, of which his close associate Georgi Popov is a majority shareholder, Bojkov said he was ready to sell the stake to any investor or to transfer it gratuitously to the football club fans because he can no longer finance its operation as the law-enforcement actions against him have left him penniless.
Reacting to the interview, Goranov told a news briefing at Parliament later in the day that ever since he entered the gambling business, Bojkov or his employees violated the Gambling Act by misdeclaring and underpaying fees. Once he pays the Exchequer the overdue amount of 700 million leva or so, the businessman will have "the moral and statutory grounds to claim that the Gambling Commission should let him resume his business," the Minister emphasized. "When you are accused, it is very easy to accuse the entire society that it is dysfunctional because you are at a disadvantage," Goranov said.
The Finance Minister does not think he can be blamed for Bojkov's employees misapplying the Gambling Act. He said that he did meet with the businessman but refused to grant his request to equalize taxation of offline and online gambling.
Approached by www.segabg.com, Borissov denied that Bojkov had been dispossessed "of a plant or an enterprise". "Gambling simply became state-owned, and its revenues are now spent on sports financing," he added. LG