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News 16 Mar 16

Serbian Court Grills Banker Wanted in Bulgaria

The Belgrade High Court on Wednesday interrogated Bulgarian businessman Tsvetan Vasilev, whose extradition is sought by the Bulgarian authorities in relation to his failed bank.

Mariya Cheresheva, Sasa Dragojlo
BIRN
Belgrade
Bulgarian businessman Tsvetan Vasilev | Photo: www.vassilev.bg

The Belgrade High Court grilled the Bulgarian businessman Tsvetan Vasilev, whose extradition from Serbia is sought by the Bulgarian authorities, for over an hour on Wednesday.

The hearing took place behind closed doors but on leaving the court Vasilev told BIRN that he was resisting extradition because he would not have fair trial in Bulgaria, since the whole process was politically motivated.

“We will see what happens. In Bulgaria, I would not have real trial, as this is a politically motivated case aimed at me, my equities and my company,” Vasilev said.

He said the bankruptcy in 2014 of his bank, Corporate Commercial Bank, CCB, had been a result of a “raid attack”, which was politically directed.

Vasilev has been living in Belgrade since 2014, days after CCB collapsed in by far the biggest banking collapse in the history of Bulgaria. The lost assets are valued at over 4 billion leva [aroun 2 billion euro].

Bulgaria seeks his extradition on the grounds of running a ponzi scheme and of illegally acquiring 206 million leva [103 million euro] in assets from the bank.

In March 2015, the Court of Appeal in Belgrade rejected Bulgaria’s extradition request on the grounds that the rights of the defendant had not been taken into account.

Vasilev’s case before the High Court of Belgrade was set for the end of February, but was postponed after the banker’s lawyer delivered a sick note.

On February 10, Bulgaria’s Prosecutor General, Sotir Tsatsarov, filed a complaint to the Council of Europe over the lack of feedback from Serbia on the extradition request.

Vladimir Beljanski, Vasilev’s Serbian lawyer, told BIRN on Wednesday that the process was still not close to an end.

“Vasilev has told his side of the story today but the court has not issued any decision yet. The process is still ongoing,” Beljnski said

He added that beside the fact that his client would not have fair trial in Bulgaria, there are other reasons for not extraditing the banker to Bulgaria.

“There are more arguments... but I cannot speak about the details, since the process is closed to the public, as you see,” he concluded.

The next court hearing is scheduled for April 6. Regardless of the Court Decision, the Serbian Minister of Justice will have the final say on Vasilev’s extradition to Bulgaria.

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