New charges against sanctioned Bulgarian oligarch Vasil Bozhkov over his links to late Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin could affect the political standing of political figure Boyko Borissov and likely plunge Bulgaria into a new political crisis.
Bozhkov, charged for contract killings, extortion, and avoiding hundreds of millions of euros in state fees for his gambling business, saw new charges slapped against him on Saturday after he had decided to return to Bulgaria ‐ after three years in Dubai ‐ to “prove his innocence in the court” on Friday.
“From a computer with Vasil Bozhkov’s email, it is clear that he had business relations with the Russian citizen Yevgeny Prigozhin and several other Russian citizens sanctioned after the annexation of Crimea,” Prosecutor Angel Kanev from the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office said.
This was revealed more than two and a half years ago but is only being reported now by the prosecutor.
“The accused, Bozhkov, has structured active companies operating in the field of gambling, with significant financial capital, he has registered gambling activities in the Republic of Georgia,” added prosecutor Kanev.
Among the 19 accusations brought against Bozhkov, there is none for violating the sanctions against Russia. Bozhkov himself replied that the prosecution’s claims were “nonsense”.
The prosecutor added that there is also an investigation against Bozhkov for tax crimes and money laundering in Moldova.
Bozhkov’s return was widely reported in Bulgaria and could seriously impact political life in the country.
He is expected to be questioned as a witness because of his claims that he paid more than €30 million in bribes to the leader of the largest Bulgarian party, GERB and the country’s long-time former prime minister, Boyko Borissov, as well as to his former finance minister Vladislav Goranov.
Earlier this year, the US imposed sanctions on Goranov after Bozhkov’s claims, signalling that Washington accepts at least some of the Bukharan oligarch’s statements as true. Borissov is currently a leading figure behind the government, and without his support, Bulgaria could be thrown into a new political crisis at a time when the EU is relying on pro-European governance in Sofia.
“The man decided and returned. What more can I comment on? Thousands of passengers come and go. We have given evidence. We have explained everything”, the GERB leader commented on Bozhkov returning to the country.
(Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)