Controversial Bulgarian Businessman Found Dead, Murder Speculations SurfaceSociety | March 30, 2011, Wednesday // 14:25| views
47-year-old Mihail Mihov, aka "The Beer", has been found dead in a hotel said to be owned by Lukoil Bulgaria's CEO Valentin Zlatev. Photo by Bulphoto
The head of the Bulgarian Basketball Federation, controversial businessman Mihail Mihov, (aka Misho Birata), was found dead in a hotel room on Wednesday.
47-year-old Mihail Mikov is the owner of the three Bulgarian breweries, (hence his nickname "Misho Birata" - i.e. "Misho the Beer"). He had been the President of the Bulgarian Baskeball Federation since 2008. He was also the Honorary Consul of Brazil in Varna.
Shortly after Mihov's body was found, the Bulgarian Basketball Federation confirmed in a statement that its President had died of a heart attack; meanwhile, Bulgarian media were quick to described Mihov's death as mysterious.
Mihov's body was found in the RIU Pravets Resort Hotel, in the town of Pravets, northeast of Sofia, which, according to unofficial information is owned by tycoon Valentin Zlatev, the CEO of Lukoil Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian police have ruled out foul play; they were alerted about the dead body at about 12:30 pm on Wednesday.
At the same time, various government cricits have voiced lurking suspicions of a murder.
In mid January 2010, Mihov became notoriously known through his involvement in the "Tapegate" scandal that shook Bulgaria's Borisov Cabinet after a compromising transcript of a tapped telephone conversation between him and Prime Minister Boyko Borisov was leaked to the public by the Galeria weekly.
Mihov, born in the northeast city of Silistra on February 23, 1964, is a graduate of the Varna Economics University. He is the owner of the Bulbrew company, which has three breweries in Bulgaria – MM Beer in Varna and Ruse, and Ledenika in the town of Mezdra, to the north of Sofia.
He is also the owner of MM Holding, which includes MM Electronics – a retailer of electric appliances, the Dimyat winery – producing wine and Bulgarian brandy "rakia", and the Dunav Plaza Hotel in Ruse. He is also the manager of the Varna-based basketball team "MM Beer Cherno More".
At a press conference in January, the Galeria weekly, a paper believed to be the mouthpiece of Aleksei Petrov, former special agent of the State National Security Agency DANS, who has been investigated on organized crime charges since his detention in the much advertised "Operation Octopus" in February 2010, released a tape of a conversation between Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov and the head of Bulgaria's Customs Agency Vanyo Tanov, alleging that Borisov provided a cover-up for the owner of the "Ledenika" beer company, Mihail Mihov.
The tapes reveal that Borisov had called Tanov with an order to immediately pull out all customs agents from Mihov's factory over an agreement that he made with the businessman, and that the "Ledenika" boss personally complained to the Prime Minister that the customs inspected his plant in spite of their arrangements.
The production license of the Ledenika brewery had been revoked by Customs Agency head Vanyo Tanov on February 8, 2010.
In another tape, Tanov can be heart telling his Deputy, Antoniy Strandzhev, to keep the documents secure while he is away.
Mihail Mihov is also known for being close to Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov.
The authenticity of the compromising tape involving Mihov's name was never unconditionally proven.
After the tape of Borisov's conversation with Tanov was leaked, Borisov explained that President Georgi Parvanov personally asked him for cooperation regarding the customs investigation of Mihov's business.
Borisov claimed he had issued no orders to favor Mihov, and that the only instructions he gave were to inspect his brewery.
Almost a year before the Tapegate scandal, on February 8, 2010, because of violations the Customs Agency revoked the production license of Mihov's Ledenika Brewery; the license was then restored in the summer of 2010 by the Supreme Administrative Court in Sofia.
Speaking in mid January after the tape scandal broke out, Mihov declared he never asked Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, for protection or assistance. At a special press conference he told reporters the legal battles, led by the "Ledenika" beer brewing company, were a stark proof of his words.
Mihov confirmed for the media he had approached President, Georgi Parvanov, regarding the revoking of the brewery's license.
In the tapes, Borisov can be heard mentioning Parvanov the following way:
"I am not Parvanov. When I promised to not touch him it means I would not touch him. Call the minister and tell them what I said and then call Misho," Borisov says after Tanov has told him that the Finance Minister has given him other orders.
Later, the PM explained to Members of the Parliament the mentioning Parvanov's name by saying that Mihov is the President of the Bulgarian Basketball Federation and a while ago Parvanov called him to tell him the Customs were "pressuring the Basketball Federation President.'
Mihov said during the press conference that at the time the court saga with "Ledenika" appealing a previous revocation of its license was going on, he complained to everyone he came across.
The businessman explained he had not been directly managing the company for years now, and currently works only as its consultant.
A month after the Customs Agency revoked the production license of the Ledenika Brewery in February 2010, Mihov was spotted dining at a Sofia restaurant with the Supreme Administrative Court Judge, Panayot Genkov. The same court revoked Tanov's decision in the summer of 2010.
Mihov explained he met Genkov in connection with the Basketball Federation since the latter had been a member of its Board until one year ago.
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