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News 14 Jul 16

Bulgarians Doubt Stars will Show up for Charity Concert

A Bulgarian foundation has promised to bring a galaxy of stars including Mick Jagger to Sofia for a big charity concert – but many suspect it is all a big hoax.

Mariya Cheresheva
Mick Jagger is among the galaxy of stars in the lineup. Photo: Facebook

News that some of the world’s top celebrities, including Mick Jagger, Justin Timberlake and Hollywood star Johnny Depp are heading for Sofia to take part in a big charity concert this autumn quickly made headlines on July 7.

But, as more and more unclear points emerge about the “Peace for You, Peace for Me” concert, aiming to reprise Bob Geldof’s legendary Live Aid concert from 1985, questions are mounting about its authenticity.

One of the biggest concerns is the short timeframe for the organization of such a large-scale musical event, which is still not listed in any official booking agencies. No tickets are on sale, either.

“To everyone who does not believe that the concert will take place, I can just say, welcome on October 1 to the National Stadium Vasil Levski”, Zhivko Botev, the main organizer, told BIRN on Tuesday.

A Bulgarian-born theater director, also known by the name Jay Boteff, he spent over 10 years working in the UK before starting the Peace for You, Peace for Me Foundation at the end of 2015.

The concert, which aims to raise funds for child victims of war and armed conflict around the world, is the sole initiative of Botev’s foundation, which has provoked suspicions about its credibility.

The address of the office of the foundation in Sofia, Boulevard Maria Louisa 100, matches that of the Central Bus Station for one thing.

Even more controversial is one of Botev’s partners in the cause. Marchelo Djotolov was one of several people arrested in a 2010 landmark police operation codenamed “Octopus” against a criminal group involved in racketeering, money laundering, drug and human trafficking, bribery and tax fraud.

Djotolov was the right hand of the former state security agent Alexey Petrov, allegedly the leader of the “Octopus” group, who was shot at with a grenade launcher in 2015, but survived.

Botev’s other partner, however, is the US drummer Robin DiMaggio who is a UN Goodwill Ambassador and Musical Director.

DiMaggio attended the press conference for the launch of the concert in Sofia on July 7 and said he had received verbal confirmations concerning participation from Depp, Jagger, Bruno Mars, Timberlake, Rod Stewart, the band Earth, Wind and Fire, and others.

None of the named celebrities have listed the date of the concert in their official tour programs, however.

The organizers also claimed that the concert had the support of UNESCO and that they expected its director, Irina Bokova, who is also Bulgaria’s candidate for the post of UN Secretary-General, to become the official patron.

At a presentation of the event, targeting private sponsors, obtained by BIRN, the organizers declared that the collected funds would be distributed to children in need by the Red Cross and the Red Crescent under the monitoring of the UN  refugee agency UNHCR, UNESCO and the Sofia Municipality.

The UNHCR office in Sofia confirmed to BIRN that Botev had contacted them in relation to the concert but said they had not even met him to discuss the project and had not made any commitments.

UNESCO’s press service in Paris said that while Bokova welcomed the idea of the launch of a global event in aid of disadvantaged children, she has made no commitments for 1 October.

“The National Commission of Bulgaria has not granted patronage because UNESCO does not support fundraising events,” UNESCO noted.

BIRN addressed the International Committee of the Red Cross for a comment, but received no reply by time of publication.

Meanwhile, some Bulgarians have started mocking the event on Facebook.

“Will Prince and Michael Jackson perform a duet?” one Facebook-user asked.

Botev attributed the reactions to traditional Bulgarian skepticism and added that he was not worried about people being suspicious.

He insisted that the organization is running to schedule and added that, next week, video statements of the participants will start being broadcast on TV - without specifying the broadcaster.

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