Hello! My name is Radosveta Vassileva and I am a legal scholar based in the UK. I happen to be a Bulgarian national. Recently, in August 2017, I visited my parents in Serbia for my father’s birthday. My parents are refugees there—they have been politically persecuted by Bulgaria as my father exposed corruption at the highest levels of government. When I went to register with the Serbian police as any foreigner who intends to stay in Serbia for more than one day is obliged to have a registration, the officer told me politely that they had to arrest me because Bulgaria had put me on Interpol’s Red Notice list. Needless to say, I was stunned and horrified. How did a young legal scholar and doctor of law end up on this “special” list, but most of all—how is it possible for a European Union Member State to abuse European legal instruments and Interpol’s Red Notice list to target political and economic opponents? If you are curious, keep reading! This is a story of violent abuse of law and human rights by corrupt Bulgarian officials. This is a frightening tale of how Bulgaria’s corrupt authorities can put you on Interpol’s Red Notice list even before they bring nonsensical charges against you and before they summon you in violation of both Bulgarian and European law! Yes, they are that arrogant, ruthless, and vengeful.
Three Years of Unprecedented Abuse
Since 2014, my father Tzvetan Vassilev has been subjected to unprecedented political prosecution and abuse as he refused to succumb to massive corruption. He is a self-made businessman and investor in various sectors. He used to be the major shareholder in the fourth largest bank in Bulgaria (Corporate Commercial Bank: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_Commercial_Bank ), he was among the biggest taxpayers in Bulgaria, and he was a well-known philanthropist donating money to various charities and events. He was ranked the most influential person in the country by Forbes.
As he was blackmailed by various politicians for a few years, he supported a political project calling for reforms in 2014. This is when the nightmare started. In 2014, Delyan Peevski—a media mogul and a Member of Bulgaria’s Parliament—asked my father to transfer to him most of the bank’s assets “for free.” My father refused. What followed was a classic example of “corporate raiding”—fabricated charges, a tarnishing media campaign in media controlled by Peevski, an attempt on my father’s life, abuse of process, an arrest warrant, a European Arrest Warrant, an Interpol’s Red Notice, and a freezing order on all assets. It should be emphasized that innocent people were arrested by Bulgaria’s authorities in the summer of 2014 to be forced to testify against my dad. In a private conversation, a person who was detained told me they were threatened by Bulgaria’s prosecution that they would be sued for treason if they did not testify against my dad. A scheme typical for dictatorial societies! All this horror, so that the bank’s assets can be plundered by Bulgaria’s mafia. A very shameful scheme in which Bulgaria’s prosecution is the key factor—it is a public secret they work in collaboration with Peevski too.
My father sought shelter in Serbia, which is a neighbor of Bulgaria, and he has been residing there since then.
Interpol’s Red Notices as Bulgarian Mafia’s Favorite Tool for Public Humiliation and Abuse
My father’s Red Notice was issued in the summer of 2014 because of an absurd accusation by Bulgaria’s prosecution, and in violation of Bulgarian procedural rules and European law. If you are curious why I say Bulgarian and European law while Bulgaria is an EU Member State, I need to clarify that Bulgaria has not managed to harmonize its law with the Treaty on European Union to this day and that there is ample case law against Bulgaria by the European Court of Human Rights, which Bulgarian authorities refuse to take into account. Or maybe they do not want to.
For instance, Bulgaria is the only country in the EU in which the prosecution can accuse someone without judicial oversight and, after changes implemented in Bulgaria’s Code of Criminal Procedure in 2017, the Bulgarian prosecution can postpone bringing the charges to court indefinitely! In other words, you are considered an offender, but you cannot defend yourself in court until the prosecution allows you…which may never happen! In legal terms, this means no presumption of innocence, no right to defense, and no right to fair trial. This is against the very identity of the European Union under its Treaties—particularly article 2 of the Treaty on European Union. Not to mention that Bulgaria’s prosecution has a Stalinist vertical structure—all decisions depend on the Prosecutor General and there is no system for verification of the compliance of his work and his orders with Bulgarian law. So, he may act with impunity.
It is quite disturbing that my father’s accusation has been altered several times since 2014. Bulgaria’s prosecution is clearly shooting in the dark with the sole purpose of harassing my father. It is also interesting that while my dad willingly went to the Serbian police in the summer of 2014, his Interpol Red Notice has not been withdrawn by the Bulgarian authorities to this day. In fact, Bulgaria’s prosecution explicitly asked for his Red Notice to be public (the rule of thumb is that these notices are secret) and continues to lie that Interpol is looking for my father and is investigating him. Firstly, Interpol’s Headquarters in Lyon do not have investigative powers: they only comply with the requests sent by national Interpol offices without verification. Secondly, my father’s notice was issued by Bulgaria’s Interpol Office under the request (order) of Bulgaria’s prosecution. In other words, the only reason why my father appears on Interpol’s Red Notice list to this day is because Bulgaria’s authorities refuse to withdraw the notice even though my father was located 3 years ago when he went to the police by himself.
Despite the abuse, my father remained a vocal opponent against corruption and continued to present evidence of blackmailing in his interviews and on his blog (www.vassilev.bg). In retaliation against his honesty, particularly because he showed proof of blackmailing by political parties, in 2016 the prosecution fabricated absurd charges against my mother who is a respected professor of economics in Bulgaria. The media affiliated with Peevski started a black media campaign against her too to enhance the abuse. She is accused of “money laundering” because my father donated her money (personal to personal bank account) to buy a house in 2012—according to Bulgaria’s “inventive” prosecution she should have known her husband was a criminal and the money had an illegal source. As I mentioned above, my father used to be among the biggest taxpayers in Bulgaria and has paid all due taxes on his income. He has not been convicted to this day. And where is the presumption of innocence?
While my mom was in Serbia to see my dad and she was officially registered with the Serbian police because any foreigner who stays in Serbia for more than one day needs to have a registration, Bulgaria’s authorities issued her an Interpol’s Red Notice in violation of Bulgarian procedural rules and EU law. Once again, they insisted it be public. The sole purpose for that was public lynching to destroy her reputation as a scholar! Clearly her location was known to all competent authorities. The prosecution and Peevski’s favorite media continue to lie that Interpol is looking for her to this day while the reality is that Interpol’s Bulgarian office refuses to withdraw her Red Notice which, as I said above, was issued through procedural violations of both Bulgarian and EU law.
Of course, for all these abuses we have submitted claims before the European Court of Human Rights but it takes a decade to have a decision in such institutions. Certainly, Bulgarian authorities know this and act with impunity all the more that the people abusing their office do not bear personal responsibility for the violations (crimes?) they have committed.
The Magnitsky Act
On 11 August 2017, the lawyers of my father Tzvetan Vassilev submitted an application to the US Government under the Magnitsky Act, providing concrete evidence of how Bulgaria’s Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov and Member of Parliament Delyan Peevski have deliberately violated his human rights to hide corruption on a massive scale. The Magnitsky Act allows the US Government to identify and sanction corrupt government officials who are implicated in human rights abuse. Initially its purpose was to sanction Russian corrupt officials implicated in abuses of human rights by refusing them US visas and by freezing their overseas assets. The Act is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer, who was routinely tortured and ultimately beaten to death while imprisoned in Russia for exposing corruption at the highest level of the Russian government (http://www.billbrowder.com/sergei-magnitsky). The Magnitsky Act was approved with strong bipartisan support. In 2016, the scope of the Act was enlarged to target the abuse of human rights on a global scale.
My father’s application was also supported by Bill Richardson’s Center for Global Engagement. Bill Richardson is a distinguished US diplomat who dedicated his life to fighting human rights abuse. You can read Governor Richardson’s reasons why he believes that those who victimized Tzvetan Vassilev should be sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act here: http://www.richardsondiplomacy.org/news/tzvetan-vassilev-bulgarias-magnitsky/.
Bill Richardson is also a former Governor of New Mexico, former US Ambassador to the United Nations and former Secretary of Energy under President Bill Clinton. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize four times (http://www.richardsondiplomacy.org/).
Nonsensical Charges Against Me, Violent Abuse of Process and My Fundamental Human Rights, and Bulgarian Mafia’s Favorite Tool for Humiliation—a Red Notice
A striking timeline:
3 August 2017: US prestigious media announce my father would file an application under the Magnitsky Act
11 August 2017: my father’s application under the Magnitsky Act is officially submitted to the US Government
12 August 2017: my father’s birthday
13 August 2017: Governor Richardson explains in an op-ed why he believes my father has been victimized by the Prosecutor General of Bulgaria Tsatsarov and Delyan Peevski and why both should be sanctioned by the US Government
14 August 2017: Bulgaria’s prosecution raises fabricated charges against me and issues a 72-detention warrant; Peevski’s favorite media start a tarnishing campaign against me
14 August 2017: Based on my research, this is when I appeared on Interpol’s “secret” Red Notice list. Of course, I learned this much later after I was arrested and released. This time Bulgaria’s mafia did not make the notice public in order to deliberately put me in a humiliating situation and to scare my parents to death.
So, let me clarify what happened! In a brutal retaliation against my father for submitting an application under the Magnitsky Act, Bulgaria’s corrupt authorities immediately put me on Interpol’s Red Notice and engaged in major forgery to justify the said notice. I know for a fact after talking to experts that preparing the documents for Interpol’s Red Notice takes a long time, so for me to appear on that list on 14 August 2017 means Bulgaria’s authorities filed the documents weeks before that…my gut feeling is August 3rd when they heard of the Magnitsky Act! Yes, they are that primitive and vengeful!
On 14 August 2017, my father’s Bulgarian lawyers called me that I have been charged with money laundering because my father donated me money to buy a two-bedroom flat in Bulgaria in 2013 (personal to personal bank account) and I should have known he was a criminal. Almost exactly the same accusation as my mother’s—once again absurd and once again in violation of the presumption of innocence. My father does not have a verdict to this day. As I said above, Bulgaria is the only country in the EU in which accusations by the prosecution are not subjected to judicial oversight and there is case law by the European Court of Human Rights against Bulgaria on that matter.
It is quite shocking that I was accused by the same investigator who accused my mother. It is also outrageous that the same prosecutor who issued a 72-hour detention warrant for my mom issued a 72-hour detention warrant for me on 14 August 2017. Clearly, in total conflict of interest! The 72-hour detention warrant was the last document Bulgaria’s mafia needed to send to Interpol to justify the Red Notice, which appeared on their system on 14 August 2017. An important detail is that under Bulgarian law, I am allowed to appeal that 72-hour detention warrant in court, but the Bulgarian prosecution does not recognize that right as it considers itself above the law and the Bulgarian court! It puts you on the Red Notice list straight away without waiting for the decision of the Bulgarian court. I did appeal on 17 August 2017 and I am awaiting the decision of the Bulgarian court.
But why did they manage to issue me a 72-hour detention warrant in Bulgaria? While they know I do not live in Bulgaria, they sent me a subpoena to my parents’ flat in Bulgaria requiring me to present myself at the investigative office on 7 August 2017. Needless to say, nobody lives in this flat and there was no way for me to know about it. The 72-hour detention warrant was issued because I did not honor the subpoena. By the way, now that I have seen the subpoena, I can tell you that it does not even say why I was summoned!
So not knowing anything about all this abuse and attempt to well…detain me and harass my parents… I went to see my parents in Serbia for my dad’s birthday, which is on August 12th. I went to register with the police the following week with a big smile, as required by Serbian law. This is when they told me politely they had to arrest me because Bulgaria had put me on Interpol’s Red Notice list.
While I was frightened to death, I was impressed with the human face of Serbian authorities. The officers who arrested me told me: “You do not look like a criminal. Everything will be OK”. The officers at Interpol’s office in Serbia were equally stunned. I heard them whisper in Serbian (which is in the same language family as Bulgarian): “First the father, then the mother, now the daughter…What on earth is going on in Bulgaria?”. Then they politely explained to me that I was arrested because the Bulgarian prosecution had accused me and that the Bulgarian Interpol Office had issued a Red Notice for me. They also explained I had done nothing wrong in Serbia. They said they were obliged to carry out certain procedures according to international treaties. They asked me if I needed water or food on several occasions and they provided a chair on which I could sit while waiting for the response of Bulgaria’s Interpol Office.
In practice, the Bulgarian Interpol Office had to send a confirmation that the “right” person was arrested. I could not help but notice that they sent the confirmation at the last possible moment: literally the last minute the working day in Bulgaria was over. While I do not want to make allegations at this stage, I suspect, after talking to experts, that this was a last attempt to artificially prolong my arrest. What those who organized the attack against me do not know is that under Serbian law, the Serbian court has to examine such cases immediately after the confirmation of the national Interpol office which issued the Red Notice arrives, no matter the time of day.
Hence, I had a hearing before the Serbian court that same evening. The judicial panel listened carefully to all my arguments and let me go after the hearing with a mandatory measure.
Why Should This Horrific Story of Abuse Matter to You?
In other words, I wanted to tell you the story of how Bulgaria’s mafia officially nominated me as their enemy by abusing the law and engaging in forgery to issue me an Interpol Red Notice. Now all my family members are on that “prestigious” list. I personally believe that abusing somebody’s daughter to harass and blackmail her parents is the lowest moral point a country can get to. What a shame!
Bulgaria’s mafia which governs the country is not afraid to breach Bulgarian, EU, and international treaties to mercilessly target one businessman and two scholars just because it wants to hide corruption on a massive scale and plunder the assets of Corporate Commercial Bank.
As I was leaving the Serbian court the evening of my hearing in a state of utter shock and distress, I remembered the words, which the priest Danilo said to vezir Selim when the Ottoman Empire was trying to conquer Montenegro: “The hard walnut is a curious fruit! If you try to crush it, you will end up breaking your teeth” (This is a quotation from the brilliant epic poem The Mountain Wreath by Petar II Petrović-Njegoš).
This is when I decided to start my blog. Enemies to that mafia we have been and enemies we will remain. The whole world will learn about the crimes Bulgaria’s mafia has committed and the whole world will be watching its imminent demise! The lights are on!
UPDATE: This article was originally published on 23 August 2017. Subsequently, Interpol’s Headquarters established that Bulgaria has violated Interpol’s Rules on the Processing of Data because it issued Interpol notices without evidence of crime. The notices against me and my mom have been cancelled. Interpol’s Headquarters is currently examining the grounds for my dad’s notice. Overall, Interpol’s Headquarters are now aware that Bulgaria abuses their system similarly to autocratic states like Russia and Kazakhstan.
Please sign my petition:
If you believe in justice and human rights, but most of all, if you believe Bulgarian mafia should be stopped, please sign my petition in support of my father’s application under the Magnitsky Act!
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