Bulgarian Central Bank Broke Its Silence after 3 Years of Correspondence about Banks ‘Bad Apples’

New Governor Dimitar Radev ended Iskrov’s omerta and promised review of media investigations in the banking system.

The new Governor of the Bulgarian central bank (Bulgarian National Bank, BNB) Dimitar Radev responded to the numerous letters, alerts and official inquiries Bivol sent them over the years. Radev also finally granted us access to the original complaint from 2012 of four Bulgarian banks against our media. These banks (First Investment Bank, FIB, Corporate Commercial Bank, CCB, Investbank and Central Cooperative Bank) are part of the eight Bulgarian banks, defined as “bad apples” in a classified cable sent to the State Department in Washington DC by former US Ambassador in Sofia HE John Beyrle. The cable was part of the global leakage of official American diplomatic correspondence that was intercepted and published by Wikileaks. On June 30, 2011, Bivol first published the secret US report, as an official partner of Wikileaks. This was followed by a publication on the second page of the global press flagship Le Monde, but in Bulgaria this heretical information was totally ignored by the media and neglected by the public. This is the usual approach of the ruling thug-oligarchy and their subordinate media to neutralize embarrassing and explosive publications of Bivol.

About a year and a half later, BNB suddenly sent a notice with which it officially made it clear that a procedure has been launched for a possible criminal sanction against Bivol under article 152a of the anti-European Credit Institutions Act that is applied in Bulgaria and provides cover-up to banking crimes from public transparency.

There was a swift and firm response from the international community represented by Reporters Without Borders. The European organization that defends freedom of expression around the world, issued a sharp statement against the actions of the leadership of the Bulgarian National Bank and its attempts to intimidate a free media such as Bivol.

The saga of Bivol with BNB can be traced in epic conflicts and stressful correspondence in the years that followed the above. The revelations and the investigations of Bivol in the situation in the banking system were irrevocably ignored by the previous BNB management and were even greeted with undisguised irritation and rejection.

An answer from BNB arrived after all, though three years late. After Radev’s appointment our latest letter did not end in the waste bin as was the practice of his predecessor, and was granted an appropriate response. Our consistency in asking access to the banks’ complaint was driven by the follow-up actions in 2012 of BNB in an attempt to start an infringement procedure against our media.

It seemed highly unlikely to us then that four banks would get organized and write a joint letter with the request to punish Bivol. In 2013, the team of former BNB Governor Ivan Iskrov refused to grant access to the complaint, even after it was formally requested under the Access to Public Information Act (APIA). The persistent silence of BNB and the unofficial denial that such letter from some banks complainants has been indeed sent, led to the only logical conclusion: there is no such joint letter-complaint to the banking supervision and BNB’s initiative was prompted by other motives.

In the end, things fell into place. There has been a joint complaint of four banks after all and it has been coordinated and signed by at least two managers or executive officers for each of them. Bivol decided to publish the complaint, which was written very carefully and probably by some quite competent and highly-paid lawyers. The complaint speaks for itself, thus we are releasing it in graphic form, without any additional edits or corrections. Such an action can definitely be classified as an execution sentence against Bivol. This would probably have happened if our media was not defended very categorically by prestigious international institutions and media. Any unbiased reader can make from the distance of time alone their own conclusions by reading the complaint of the four banks affected by the qualification “bad apples”.

We thank BNB for providing the complaint of the four banks against our media! It is very important both for our portfolio, and for the manner of management of the banks in the Bulgarian banking system and their approach to media and transparency.

The letter of the BNB Governor, however, is particularly important from another perspective. It is unique in that it openly and officially states a radically different and new approach in the overall policy of this institution. A radical change is stated in the policy and conduct of BNB not only regarding media, but also in terms of the activities of banks in the country.

For the first time in Bulgarian history, BNB demonstrates unprecedented distrust to the activities of the auditors of banks. This causes the initiating of a first-ever assessment of this activity by an external reliable and independent consultant.

Mr. Dimitar Radev declares a very different new approach of BNB in respect of risk assessment and evaluation of bank assets in Bulgaria, in accordance with European practices.

It is definitely stated that the attitude of BNB towards media that publish proven and validated professional information on banks will change. These media will no longer be persecuted, censored and intimidated. Their publications will be analyzed and the raised issues and cases will be very carefully and responsibly scrutinized.

We sincerely hope this is not just a sporadic and showoff behavior, but a real commitment that will permanently remain such from now on.

We from Bivol warmly welcome the idea of an independent review of the assets quality in the banking system to be implemented in accordance with European practices. We even think that we can immediately nominate the top candidate, namely First Investment Bank, which is shining fiery red on our risk matrix over the risk assessment for receiving State financial assistance of more than 1 billion levs to avoid bankruptcy! We also expect concrete answers to our official signals submitted so far to the leadership of the central bank, the first of which is dated November 26, 2014.

To be continued with a translation in English of the letter to Bivol of BNB Governor Mr. Dimitar Radev and the complaint of the four banks. They are published below in Bulgarian.


23 August 2015