WikiLeaks: Bulgarian Football Club Owner 'Tied' with Russian Mafia

Diplomacy | December 8, 2010, Wednesday // 18:04|  views

Bulgarian President, Georgi Parvanov (l), and football club owner, Todor Batkov (r) at the ceremony awarding the latter with the country's highest order. Photo by BGNES

The US Embassy in Sofia is keeping a close eye on ties between the murky Russian businessman, Michael Chorny and the owner of the "Levski" football club, Bulgarian Todor Batkov, according to the latest WikiLeaks release.

The information is part of an article, published in the French newspaper "Le Monde," dedicated to the Russian mafia in Europe. The publication points out it had been provided through the whistle-blower site WikiLeaks, containing classified documents examining the connections between Russian mafia and Spain and Bulgaria.

"Russia exports gas, oil and crime. The US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks deal with ties between Russian mafia and the high echelons of power in Moscow, " according to "le Monde."

The article cites a cable from the US Embassy in Sofia, dated July 7, 2005, pointing out "Russia continues to have strong influence on Bulgarian economy through the export of energy, including oil, natural gas and nuclear fuel and stresses on the importance of the largest Russian oil companies in Bulgaria.

The publication further focuses on the connection between Michael Chorny, declared in 2000 persona non-grata in Bulgaria and his "man in the country, Todor Batkov." The document explains Chorny had to transfer some of his assets to Batkov after being chased away from Bulgaria – the "Levski" football club, the "Bankya Palace" hotel and the "Standard" daily.

Four years later, the US Embassy in Sofia sent another cable titled "The Russian Connection" with more detailed information on Batkov, saying the latter had strong political ties and reminding Bulgaria's President, Georgi Parvanov, had awarded him with the country's highest order. The cable also talks about Batkov's charity activities.

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Tags: Bulgarian President, Georgi Parvanov, football club owner, Todor Batkov, highest order, Levski Football Club, Wikileaks, US Embassy in Sofia, Le Monde, cables, Michael Chorny


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