Sunday, 28 December 2014

Homophobia, fraud & payola - Labour Euro leader's shocking past

UKIP had endured several months of attacks - mainly from Labour - after Polish MEP Robert Iwaszkiewicz joined the EFDD Group. This came after European Parliament president Martin Schulz effectively bribed a Latvian MEP into leaving the group in an attempt to cause its collapse by having insufficient nations represented in its membership. Schulz of course is a member of the 'Party of European Socialists' (PES), the group to which Labour belongs. But is everything clean in Labour's garden?

PES is currently headed by Sergei Stanishev, former PM of Bulgaria and leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party from 2001 to 2014 until he was forced from office following a scandal after the appointment of a media mogul as head of the nation's Agency for National Security. Protesters chanted 'mafia' and 'red trash' in a series of demonstrations across the country. In 2011, he was elected unopposed as the President of the PES with the support of 91.5% of their MEPs, including backing from Britain's Labour Party contingent.
Baroness Royall & Stanishev,
showing what they think of
'gays', no doubt

It was no secret even then that Stanishev is a homophobe. In 2008, while he was Bulgaria's Prime Minister, he opposed the first Gay Pride march in the country, saying he did not like the "manifestation and demonstration of such orientations". While this matter of public record would bring howls of outrage from the usual suspects in Hope not Hate and UAF not to mention their Union and big business backers had it been said by anyone in UKIP, when it comes to Stanishev, there is a strange silence over his past indiscretions. In fact, it is the opposite of a silence, as Stanishev expects the backing of Glenis Willmott and the rest of the British contingent of Labour MEPs when he stands for re-election as the PES President in 2015. Will they really back him? Of course they will, homophobia doesn't matter when its their side that says it - if they cared, why was the leader of the Labour opposition in the House of Lords, Baroness Royall, so keen to be photographed with someone with such views? Royall serves as a Vice President of the PES in Stanishev's administration.

And then we have the fraud. There are a lot of allegations, both directed towards Stanishev personally, and against his wife, who if anything has even dodgier connections than him, including links to a jailed drug trafficker.

The first indication of Bulgarian Payola came with the development of a Black Sea resort in the country in an area designated for environmental protection by the EU. The Euro 1bn project was forced through in the face of huge objections - although the EU has remained strangely silent. The Bulgarian partner of the developing consortium is run by George Stanishev, who coincidentally is the brother of Sergei, who was Prime Minister at the time consent was granted. It's not what you know, it's who you know, eh?

This was followed by a bit of mutual back-scratching. Stanishev received the full backing of Commission President Manuel Barroso in early 2009, only for Stanishev to support Barroso's second term as Commission President a couple of months later.

And then we get on to the really serious fraud involving Stanishev's wife, drug traffickers and a payola scandal in Austria. Our apologies, but it makes for hugely complicated reading, so I hope you will bear with us.

Stanishev married his second wife, Monika Yosifova in 2011, although he had been living with her since late 2008. She was a noted PR expert in Bulgaria, and runs a PR company called 'Aktive Group'. In 2013, Aktive was given a contract by the PES under Martin Schultze to create a website explaining the function of the European Parliament to Bulgarians. The grant application had originally been rated 24th out of 111 submissions by the EP communications directorate. Rather than argue the case for the contract - which had been signed in his wife's family name of Yanova - Aktive
Sergei Stanishev and wife Monika - what name
will she be using today to hide her frauds?
promised to return the Euro 30k deposit it had already received.
This is not the first time that his wife had been involved in EU website funding scandals however. Between 2006 and 2008, Austrian national Peter Hochegger worked as a lobbyist pushing for Bulgarian accession under a Euro 1.5m contract issued by Stanishev's government. Part of this money was in turn paid to the PR company headed by Stanishev's wife, again under her former name Yanova. Hochegger himself was sentenced to 2.5 years by the Vienna Criminal Court last year for hiding donations to the 'Alliance for the Future of Austria' Party (BZO) during the 2006 Austrian elections - donations were hidden using fake invoices from PR and communications companies. Hochegger himself admitted that Euro 270,000 was paid by his company to Yanova/Yosifova/Stanisheva's company, along with Euro 100,000 to Ernst Strasser, the former Interior Minister of Austria. There were close links between the Bulgarian branch of Hochegger's company and other senior members of Stanishev's party in Bulgaria: Bulgarian branch manager Rositza Velkova was a close associate of Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, and other names close to the ruling party were also found to be connected to the PR business of Hochegger, including Juliana Nikolova, adviser to Prime Minister Borisov on EU funds management and Ivaylo Georgiev, former director of the Arena Armeets sports facility, who is currently in charge of the National Palace of Culture.
Austrian Peter Hochegger - serving 2 1/2 years for his role in
a political payments scandal, and a close associate of
Sergei Stanishev's wife.
Stanisheva's links to Austria do not stop with Hochegger. In 2007, a company called Europroject Holdings AG was registered in Vienna. Notionally formed by Austrian citizen Herbert Edlinger and Bulgarian Evelina Gyuderova, by 2010 only Stanisheva (registered in the Austrian registry using her middle name as a surname, ie Monica Lyubomirova, owning 75%) and Aneliya Krushkova (owning 25%) were the beneficial owners. Krushkova was a former Deputy Minister of Trade in the Bulgarian government and was appointed head of the State Tourism Agency in 2007 by the government headed by Sergei Stanishev. Krushkova is also listed as the head of another Austrian registered company, BDZ Holding, related to the Bulgarian state railway company. In July 2007, a company was registered in Sofia called Europrojects Point, with the Austrian 'Europrojects Holdings AG' listed as the sole shareholder. Management of the Bulgarian company was in the hands of Zinaida Zlatnova until the end of 2007, when she was appointed the European Commission representative to Bulgaria. She is currently the Deputy Prime Minster and Justice Minister. Europroject Point was formed specifically (according to its now defunct website) to assist in the application by Bulgarian companies for European Commission grants, and between 2007 and 2010 the company dealt with L1.2m of grants (roughly £500k). Many of these represented clear conflicts of interest with deals having been signed by government members and companies which they owned, and Stanisheva had other business interests with several of them. This included contracts signed by Krushkova in her capacity as head of the State Tourism Agency with Europroject, of which she was also an owner.

At several general meetings of Europroject Holdings AG, both Stanisheva and Krushkova were represented by a lawyer/banker called Boryana Lindiger who was employed by Euram bank in Vienna. In 2006, Lindiger was involved with a private finance house in Bulgaria called 'Private Finance Union', or PFU. She assumed a board position vacated by a man called Simo Karaychev. Karaychev is the brother of Evelin Banev, nicknamed 'Brando', who was convicted in Italy of cocaine trafficking and in Bulgaria of money laundering. While Lindiger downplays any association between herself and either Banev or Karaychev, the Sofia City Court in its conviction of Banev stated that Lindiger had 'serviced the bank accounts of the defendant', and that the source of funds arranged by Lindiger was from cocaine smuggling between Columbia and Bulgaria. Lindiger was also involved in another company with Edlinger which hit the headlines when the Commission for Establishing Property Acquired Through Criminal Activity was attempting to foreclose a property owned by Ahmed Dogan. Dogan, apart from his sideline as a hotelier, was also leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which was a minority party in Stanishev's administration. Edlinger's company managed to dispose of the shares in the hotel before the Commission could act. Dogan himself was acquitted of corruption in relation to European funding of hydroelectric power projects in Bulgaria for failing to disclose his links to the company awarded the £300k contract after it was discovered the law he was prosecuted under was not in force at the time: this was alleged to have taken place while he was part of Stanishev's government.
There, was that complicated enough for everybody? Our apologies, it is very difficult to write this stuff concisely, as part of the 'modus operandi' of fraudsters is to make things complicated and difficult to follow in the event of a subsequent investigation, although with Stanishev placemen occupying the senior positions at any Bulgarian agency which might have to conduct such an investigation, there would seem little chance of that happening. Our thanks to the researchers on this, and we will add the links to the external sources as time permits: many of them are present on Stanishev's Wikipedia page in any case, so this stuff is hardly a secret. All of which begs the question - why does the Labour Party believe a corrupt homophobe is the best person to represent their interests in Europe?

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