Bivol.bg

Bivol.bg, also known as Bivol, is an investigative media based in Bulgaria which is part of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project network and an official partner of WikiLeaks.[1] Its team comprises Atanas Tchobanov, Dimitar Stoyanov and Assen Yordanov.[2] Tchobanov is a member of the executive committee of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project.[3]

The European Commission has referred to one of Bivol's investigations known as Yaneva Gate in their 2016 report on Bulgaria under the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification.[4] This mechanism measures the country's progress in the area of corruption and judicial independence. In 2010, Assen Yordanov from Bivol.bg received a Leipzing Media Award,[5] which is meant to "honor journalists, publishers, authors and institutions from all over the world who dedicate themselves to ensuring and developing the freedom of the press by demonstrating willingness to take risks, strong personal commitment, persistence, courage and democratic conviction."[6] Yordanov was also nominated for an award by Reporters Without Borders in 2013.[7] In 2019, Bivol's journalist Dimitar Stoyanov received the Axel Springer Award for investigative journalism together with a colleague from the RISE Project Romania.[8]

Notable InvestigationsEdit

Yaneva GateEdit

In 2015, Bivol started publishing leaked recordings of conversations between two judges from the Sofia City Court, Rumyana Chenalova and Vladimira Yaneva, and the lawyer Momchil Mondeshki: the wiretaps were dubbed Yaneva Gate. The conversations allegedly show influence peddling, illegitimate pressure on the judiciary by Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, media mogul and politician Delyan Peevski and General Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov, corruption, and moral degradation of the courts, including sex against career promotion.[9][10][11][12] According to the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, "the wiretaps have once again raised questions about the judiciary’s practices, lack of separation of powers, and questionable adherence to rule of law."[13] Yaneva Gate reached the European Commission which asked Bulgarian authorities to carry out an investigation.[14] The President of Bulgaria's Supreme Court of Cassation Lozan Panov also publicly called for an independent investigation because Yaneva Gate "put a stain on the courts".[15] However, Bulgaria's Prosecutor's Office and the Ethics Committee of the Supreme Judicial Council refused to investigate because they deemed the recordings were manipulated.[16] By contrast, an independent examination by a foreign laboratory which Bivol contacted showed the recordings were authentic.[17] One of the judges in the conversation confirmed the recordings were authentic too.[18] Hristo Ivanov, Minister of Justice at the time, has referred to these recordings as а "mega corruption scandal."[19] In principle, an investigation is difficult because of the vertical structure of Bulgaria's Prosecutor's Office, which means that the General Prosecutor has to investigate himself.[20]

GP GateEdit

In 2018, Bivol.bg published their investigation known as GP Gate, which is a joint project with RISE Project Romania. Arguably, it "exposed a complex network of consultants, businessmen and public officials that evidence indicates feasted without public oversight on projects funded by the European Union."[21] While working on their investigation in September 2018, journalist from Bivol Dimitar Stoyanov and Attila Biro from RISE Project Romania were detained by Bulgarian authorities.[22] Initially the head of the Directorate for Combating Organized Crime Ivaylo Spiridonov denied that an arrest took place.[23] Subsequently, the Court of Pernik established not only there was an arrest, but also that the detainment was illegal.[24] In response to the arrest, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe said it was concerned by the "verbal and physical intimidation" of the journalists by Bulgarian authorities.[25] The Council of Europe also issued an alert and monitored the case.[26] Reporters Without Borders publicly condemned the arrests.[27]

Panama Papers in BulgariaEdit

In 2018, Bivol.bg gained access to the Panama Papers under an agreement with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and subsequently published a story about the offshore company Viafot which is attempting to acquire a key asset of Bulgaria's defense industry, namely the arms producer Dunarit.[28] The Panama Papers show that Viafot is owned by Alexander Angelov who is the lawyer of media mogul Delyan Peevski.[29] Previously, other Bulgarian media had reported how mysteriously all state institutions help Viafot acquire Dunarit through illegitimate means.[30][31] However, the Prosecutor's Office has not started an inquiry.

Boyko Atanasov's CaseEdit

Bivol.bg have shed light on the corrupt practices of Bulgaria's Prosecutor's Office by interviewing investigator Boyko Atanasov. Atanasov was subjected to pressure because he exposed the existence of a special secret unit "directly subordinate to General Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and controversial businessman, media mogul and lawmaker Delyan Peevski."[32] Atanasov claims the unit "deals with concealing crimes and tipoffs against people close to the government, and at the same time, uses signals and tipoffs to blackmail the inconvenient."[33] Atanasov revealed that "the members of the special unit can’t pursue cases based on their own judgment, but must work according to Tsatsarov’s orders and instructions, otherwise they face salary reduction, disciplinary proceedings and work overload.”[34] The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project has reported that "Atanasov took a TV crew to show them trash containers at the Sofia Investigation Office filled with shredded business contracts and documents from interrogations, including the collapse of Corporate Commercial Bank, the fourth largest private lender in Bulgaria. He insisted that the documents were destroyed immediately after he gave his first interview to Bivol."[35]

In 2019, Bivol interviewed a second investigator, Radiana Abdulova, who confirmed there was a special unit at the Prosecutor's Office which whitewashes politicians and attacks critics and opponents of the government.[36]

Apartment GateEdit

In 2019, Bivol.bg contributed to shedding light on suspicious deals of Bulgaria's political and administrative elite in the so-called Apartment Gate scandal which reached international media such as The Financial Times.[37] Bivol.bg reported on a suspicious transaction by the Deputy Chairman of the Committee for Combating Corruption Anton Slavchev (jurist) who failed to declare the full price of his apartments and a glass-paneled terrace of 244 square meters.[38] They also reported that the Chairman of the Committee for Combatting Corruption Plamen Georgiev engaged in document fraud.[39][40] Following the allegations, Georgiev went on leave, so that the circumstances of the case could be verified, which, in practice, means he will be investigated by his deputy Slavchev.[41] Georgiev resigned in July 2019, but no consequences followed for his failure to declare his property.[42]

Radio Free Europe Bulgaria reported that the girlfriend of Deputy General Prosecutor Ivan Geshev, Detelina Hancheva, with whom he has two daughters is in a business relationship with the main witness in a case in which Geshev is a prosecutor. His girlfriend has stakes in the construction sector.[43] In August 2019, the prosecution confirmed the information was true, but refused to open an inquiry.[44]

Piracy in Bulgarian watersEdit

In 2018, Bivol published their investigation describing how the Libiyan tanker BADR was hijacked in Bulgarian waters by suspicious private enforcement agents with forged documents.[45] Bivol assert this is an unprecedented pirate attack in the Black Sea which was facilitated by Bulgarian institutions.[46]

Garbage GateEdit

In 2020, Bivol broke the story of how the Italian mafia was exporting dangerous waste to Bulgaria, thus jeopardizing the health of Bulgarian citizens.[47] In October 2020, Bivol warned that Hristo KOvachki continued to burn dangerous waste in the Bobovdol thermal eletric power station despite concerns.[48]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ https://www.occrp.org/en/component/content/article?id=4516:why-is-bulgarian-investigative-journalism-site-bivol-being-attacked-by-other-media, Why is Bulgarian Investigative Journalism Site Bivol Being Attacked by Other Media?, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, 22 October 2015
  2. ^ https://bivol.bg/en/about-bivol.html, Bivol's Official website
  3. ^ https://www.novinite.com/articles/192276/RSF+Condemns+the+Arrest+of+Two+Investigative+Journalists+in+Bulgaria, RSF Condemns the Arrest of Two Investigative Journalists in Bulgaria, Novinite 22 September 2018
  4. ^ https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX:52016SC0015, 2016 Technical report on Bulgaria under the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism
  5. ^ https://dariknews.bg/novini/obshtestvo/zhurnalistyt-asen-jordanov-poluchi-medijna-nagrada-za-svobodata-i-bydeshteto-na-presata-600198, Dariknews.bg, 11 October 2010
  6. ^ https://ecpmf.eu/old/get-involved/media-award, Information about the Leipzig Media Award on the website of the European Center for Press Media and Freedom
  7. ^ https://www.novinite.com/articles/148288/Bulgarian+Nominated+for+Netizen+of+the+Year+Award, Bulgarian Nominated for Netizen of the Year Award, Novinite.com, 28 February 2013
  8. ^ https://www.ecpmf.eu/news/ecpmf/dimitar-stoyanov-and-attila-biro-win-axel-springer-award-2019, Dimitar Stoyanov and Attila Biro win Axel Springer Award 2019, European Center for Press and Media Freedom, 3 May 2019
  9. ^ https://www.novinite.com/articles/176988/Leaked+Recording+Brings+Up+Claims+of+Bulgaria+PM%27s+Relations+with+Controversial+MP, Leaked Recording Brings Up Claims of Bulgaria PM's Relations with Controversial MP, Novinite.com, 23 October 2016
  10. ^ https://bivol.bg/en/yaneva-gate-sex-and-the-court-if-i-go-to-boyko-we-would-not-be-talking-about-wiretaps.html, Yaneva Gate – Sex and the Court: If I Go to Boyko We Would not Discuss Wiretaps, Bivol, 17 December 2015
  11. ^ https://www.euractiv.com/section/economy-jobs/opinion/why-do-foreign-investors-leave-bulgaria-as-if-it-were-the-titanic/, Why do foreign investors leave Bulgaria as if it were the Titanic?, Euractiv, 11 February 2019
  12. ^ https://bivol.bg/en/yaneva-gate-bulgarian-prime-minister-bought-for-a-mistress-a-house-in-barcelona-for-1-5-million-euro.html, Yaneva Gate: Bulgarian Prime Minister Bought a 1.5 Million-Euro Barcelona House for a Mistress Evidence of the Prime Minister’s involvement in trade of influence, career promotions against sex, illegal income and tax crimes emerged, Bivol, 15 January 2016
  13. ^ https://www.occrp.org/en/27-ccwatch/cc-watch-briefs/4940-bulgaria-investigative-journalists-questioned-in-wiretap-scandal, Bulgaria: Investigative Journalists Questioned in Wiretap Scandal, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, 16 February 2016
  14. ^ https://www.occrp.org/en/27-ccwatch/cc-watch-briefs/4940-bulgaria-investigative-journalists-questioned-in-wiretap-scandal, Bulgaria: Investigative Journalists Questioned in Wiretap Scandal, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, 16 February 2016
  15. ^ http://www.bta.bg/en/c/DF/id/1220434, Top Judge Calls for Independent Body to Investigate Leaked Tapes in Yaneva Case Bulgarian News Agency, 26 November 2015
  16. ^ https://bivol.bg/en/independent-expert-examination-of-yaneva-gate-recording-rules-out-manipulation-of-content.html, Independent Expert Examination of “Yaneva Gate” Recording Rules Out Manipulation of Content, Bivol, 21 January 2016
  17. ^ https://bivol.bg/en/independent-expert-examination-of-yaneva-gate-recording-rules-out-manipulation-of-content.html, Independent Expert Examination of “Yaneva Gate” Recording Rules Out Manipulation of Content, Bivol, 21 January 2016
  18. ^ https://www.svobodnaevropa.bg/a/29803275.html, Svobodna Evropa (Free Europe Bulgaria), Връзката Пеевски-Цацаров-СГС: сигналът до ЕК, предшестващ ареста на Ченалова, 5 March 2019
  19. ^ https://lex.bg/bg/news/view/63547, Христо Иванов: Съдебната власт е зацапана с всякакви влияния и не може да бъде имунна система, Lex, 9 December 2016
  20. ^ https://balkaninsight.com/2016/05/31/postponed-eu-monitoring-of-bulgaria-s-prosecution-worries-experts-05-31-2016/, Delayed EU Audit of Bulgaria Prosecution Raises Concern, Balkan Insight, 31 May 2016
  21. ^ https://www.investigativejournalismforeu.net/projects/misuse-of-eu-funds-in-romania-and-bulgaria/, Misuse of EU Funds in Romania and Bulgaria, Investigative Journalism for Europe, 14 November 2018
  22. ^ https://balkaninsight.com/2018/09/14/bulgarian-police-detain-investigative-journalists-09-14-2018/, Bulgaria Detains Journalists Probing EU Funds Fraud, Balkan Insight, 14 September
  23. ^ https://www.dnevnik.bg/bulgaria/2018/09/17/3312352_shefut_na_antimafiotite_pita_dali_bivolu_i_bi_ti_vi/, Шефът на антимафиотите пита дали "Биволъ" и Би Ти Ви ще му се извинят, че са го записали, Dnevnik, 17 September
  24. ^ https://www.coe.int/en/web/media-freedom/detail-alert?p_p_id=sojdashboard_WAR_coesojportlet&p_p_lifecycle=0&p_p_col_id=column-2&p_p_col_pos=5&p_p_col_count=10&_sojdashboard_WAR_coesojportlet_alertPK=46054590#block-member-replies, Media Freedom Alert by the Council of Europe
  25. ^ https://balkaninsight.com/2019/04/02/osce-criticises-abuse-of-bulgarian-investigative-journalist/, OSCE Criticises ‘Abuse’ of Bulgarian Investigative Journalist, Balkan Insight, 2 April 2019
  26. ^ https://www.coe.int/en/web/media-freedom/detail-alert?p_p_id=sojdashboard_WAR_coesojportlet&p_p_lifecycle=0&p_p_col_id=column-2&p_p_col_pos=5&p_p_col_count=10&_sojdashboard_WAR_coesojportlet_alertPK=46054590#block-member-replies, Media Freedom Alert by the Council of Europe
  27. ^ https://rsf.org/en/news/rsf-condemns-arrest-two-investigative-journalists-bulgaria, RSF condemns the arrest of two investigative journalists in Bulgaria, Reporters Without Borders, 21 September 2018
  28. ^ https://bivol.bg/en/panama-papers-controversial-mps-trusted-lawyer-owns-key-offshores-the-spectrum-of-bulgarian-kgb.html, Panama Papers: Trusted Lawyer of Controversial MP Owns Key Offshores, Ghost of Bulgarian KGB, 16 January 2019
  29. ^ https://bivol.bg/en/panama-papers-controversial-mps-trusted-lawyer-owns-key-offshores-the-spectrum-of-bulgarian-kgb.html, Panama Papers: Trusted Lawyer of Controversial MP Owns Key Offshores, Ghost of Bulgarian KGB, 16 January 2019
  30. ^ https://www.capital.bg/biznes/kompanii/2017/08/18/3026186_cialoto_peevsko_voinstvo_sreshtu_dunarit/,Цялото Пеевско войнство срещу "Дунарит", Kapital, 18 August 2017
  31. ^ https://www.capital.bg/politika_i_ikonomika/bulgaria/2017/08/31/3033806_cialoto_borisovo_voinstvo_sreshtu_dunarit/, Цялото Борисово войнство срещу "Дунарит", Kapital, 31 August 2017
  32. ^ https://bivol.bg/en/bulgarian-whistleblower-investigator-under-mounting-pressure.html, Bulgarian Whistleblower Investigator Under Mounting Pressure, Bivol, 5 March 2018
  33. ^ https://bivol.bg/en/bulgarian-whistleblower-investigator-under-mounting-pressure.html, Bulgarian Whistleblower Investigator Under Mounting Pressure, Bivol, 5 March 2018
  34. ^ https://www.occrp.org/en/27-ccwatch/cc-watch-briefs/5006-bulgaria-prosecutor-general-s-special-unit-said-to-blackmail-politicians, Bulgaria: Prosecutor General’s ‘Special Unit’ Said to Blackmail Politicians, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, 3 March 2016
  35. ^ https://www.occrp.org/en/27-ccwatch/cc-watch-briefs/5006-bulgaria-prosecutor-general-s-special-unit-said-to-blackmail-politicians, Bulgaria: Prosecutor General’s ‘Special Unit’ Said to Blackmail Politicians, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, 3 March 2016
  36. ^ https://bivol.bg/en/new-allegations-of-special-prosecutors-squad-emerge.html, "New Allegations of ‘Special Prosecutor’s Squad’ Emerge", Bivol.bg, 7 July 2019
  37. ^ https://www.ft.com/content/30083814-5ea0-11e9-a27a-fdd51850994c, Bulgaria’s ‘apartmentgate’ infuriates struggling citizens, Financial Times, 25 April 2019
  38. ^ https://bivol.bg/en/deputy-of-bulgarias-anti-corruption-boss-also-fails-to-declare-full-price-of-apartment-and-terrace.html, Deputy of Bulgaria’s Anti-Corruption Boss Also Fails to Declare Full Price of Apartment and Terrace, Bivol, 3 April 2019
  39. ^ https://bivol.bg/en/bulgarias-anti-corruption-boss-tax-declaration-reeks-of-document-fraud.html, Bulgaria’s Anti-Corruption Boss’ Tax Declaration Reeks of Document Fraud, Bivol, 27 March 2019
  40. ^ https://balkaninsight.com/2019/04/01/bulgarias-apartmentgate-scandal-engulfs-anti-corruption-chief/, Bulgaria’s ‘ApartmentGate’ Scandal Engulfs Anti-Corruption Chief, Balkan Insight, 1 April 2019
  41. ^ https://bivol.bg/en/deputy-of-bulgarias-anti-corruption-boss-also-fails-to-declare-full-price-of-apartment-and-terrace.html, Deputy of Bulgaria’s Anti-Corruption Boss Also Fails to Declare Full Price of Apartment and Terrace, Bivol, 3 April 2019
  42. ^ https://www.novinite.com/articles/198968/Head+of+Bulgaria%E2%80%99s+Anti-corruption+Commission+Resigns, Novinite, 31 July 2019
  43. ^ https://www.svobodnaevropa.bg/a/29947519.html, Иван Гешев е свързан с основния свидетел по делото срещу Иванчева, Radio Free Europe Bulgaria, 17 May 2019
  44. ^ https://www.svobodnaevropa.bg/a/30094905.html, Prosecution reveals "friendly relations" between Geshev and Vaklin's copartner, Radio Free Europe, 6 August 2019
  45. ^ https://bivol.bg/badr-mafia-burgas.html, Pirate Attack against a Libyan Tanker in the Bay of Burgas, Bivol.bg, 31 December 2018
  46. ^ https://bivol.bg/badr-ds-canev.html, Who hijacked the Libyan tanker BADR?, Bivol.bg, 10 January 2019
  47. ^ https://bivol.bg/camorra-waste-bulgaria.html, People investigated for connections with the Camorra and the Ndrangheta have delievred 9000 tons of waste to Bulgaria, Bivol.bg, 5 January 2020
  48. ^ https://bivol.bg/%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2%D0%B0%D1%87%D0%BA%D0%B8-%D0%BF%D0%B0%D0%BA-%D0%B3%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%B8-%D0%B8%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%BB%D0%B8%D0%B0%D0%BD%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%B1%D0%BE%D0%BA%D0%BB%D1%83%D0%BA-%D0%B2.html, Kovachki continues to burn waste in Bobovdol?, Bivol, 17 October 2020