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News 15 May 17

Bulgarian Tycoon's Serbian Factory Faces Bankruptcy

Workers at the indebted Serbian Glass Factory in Paracin, owned by Bulgarian tycoon Tsvetan Vasilev - whose extradition is now sought by the Bulgarian authorities - are demanding that the Serbian government help them.

Maja Zivanovic
BIRN
Belgrade

Tsvetan Vasilev. Photo: Media Centre Belgrade

Serbian workers at a glass company in Paracin, facing bankruptcy due to debts of around 50 million euros, are appealing to the government to help - and perhaps buy the firm.

“We’ve been informed that a pre-bankruptcy procedure was launched on May 5 … but we have had problems for a long time,” Zivojin Matejic, from the union at Srpska Fabrika Stakla/ Serbian Glass factory, told BIRN.

The firm in Paracin was sold to Bulgarian businessman Tsvetan Vasilev in 2012 for 35 million euros. He bought 63 per cent of the shares in the company through a consortium of companies – Corporate Commercial Bank, Glass Industry and Rubin. The new buyer even got write-off of the company’s debt to other state companies.

Meanwhile, Vasilev’s bank, Corporate Commercial Bank, CCB, collapsed in 2014 in by far the biggest bank collapse in the history of Bulgaria.

Since then, the controversial businessmen has lived in Serbia, while the Bulgarian authorities seek his extradition for running a ponzi scheme and for illegally acquiring 206 million leva [103 million euros] in assets from the failed bank.

In February 2016, the Bulgarian Commission for Illegal Assets Forfeiture, submitted a claim to a Sofia Court to seize illegally acquired assets worth over 2.2 billion leva, or 1.1 billion euros. The subject of the record forfeiture claim was property assets located in Bulgaria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Greece.

Workers at Serbian Glass protested on Thursday, saying they now fear ending up unemployed if the state does not step in. 

“This is Gordian knot as nobody knows who owes whom, how much, or for what. Every day we hear a different figure,” Matejic told BIRN on Friday, adding that the company debt stands at around 50 million euros, not including overdue electricity and gas bills.

“I understand the reform process and that all the rot must be cleansed away in order for the healthy part to bring results, but we want a new model [of managment], as we have seen in other similar cases,” Matejic said, pointing to the example of the indebted Smederevo steel company that the Serbian state bought back in 2012 from its private owner.

Asked about conditions in the factory, he said that since Vasilev became the owner the factory had been modernized and new hangars opened.

“We even got new machines - but they are still unpacked because they are not paid for, as Vasilev’s Bulgarian company went bankrupt,” he explained.

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic visited the factory in Paracin in February 2014, only months before Bulgaria asked Serbia to extradite Vasilev.

“The investment in the glass factory in Paracin is one of the most important and successfully implemented Bulgarian investments in Serbia,” Nikolic said back then, Tanjug news agency reported.

It added that Vasilev, who was Nikolic’s host at the event, had underlined that “a new page of cooperation between Serbia and Serbian companies with Bulgarian is opened”.

According to the Serbian National Bank, Serbian Glass Factory's accounts have been blocked since November 2016.

Serbian media reports in 2016 meanwhile leaked information that, despite his looming financial woes, Vasilev had been one of the donors to the fund of President Nikolic’s wife, Dragica. President Nikolic himself confirmed that Vasilev had donated to the fund - before Bulgaria filed the extradition warrant.

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