April 3, 2016
Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova is the leading candidate for the post of UN Secretary General. Strangely enough, it’s in her home country that some are trying to upset her chances. I’m sure they will not succeed, as I did some research and found the attacks totally unfounded.
As a Bulgarian national, I’m saddened but not surprised by this aggressive behavior. On the one hand, there is vested interest and typical Bulgarian politicising. On the other hand, there is a typical schadenfreude attitude of part of a wider public. We have a saying “I don’t want to be fine, I just want my neighbor to feel bad”. Some Bulgarians would rather prefer that someone from Patagonia would get a top job, and are extremely jealous if a compatriot accedes to it.
A certain Bulgarian lady writes to me frequently on Facebook saying “why am I not the candidate, why Bokova”. I tried to explain to her that Bokova has a unique professional background, while the lady in question doesn’t even have education. But she doesn’t buy my arguments. “If I had all the chances Bokova has had in her life, I would be a better candidate”, she claims. I wouldn’t mention this small talk on Facebook, if it was not so telling of the psychology of some people.
In Bulgaria there is a slander campaign ongoing against Bokova, to which she has not responded. The website Bivol in particular has published articles, claiming that she has bought real estate which costs more than her income, casting doubts that she may have some secret sources of revenue.
I contacted Bokova and her husband Kalin Mitrev. They were at first dismissive at the attacks. But as we spoke, they agreed that it was better to have the record straight.
Mitrev is currently Board Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London, representing Bulgaria, Poland and Albania.
The accusations are that Bokova and her husband owns apartments in Paris, London and New York worth $4.7 million, while their income for the last ten years has been calculated at $2.7 million. “There are about $2 million whose origin should be clarified”, claims Bivol.
Staring from zero?
What becomes obvious at first sight is that the family fortune until 2004 is totally overlooked in the calculations by Bivol. It is if as if the couple, at that time both at the age of 52, had started their lives from scratch.
Before 2004 Mitrev has actually worked ten years at top managerial positions in major private companies – as deputy CEO and member of the Board of the Bulgarian stock exchange, as a CEO of a financial consulting company, as executive director of the Bulgarian Industrial Holding, member of the board of various industrial enterprises, and even has worked for several years in the same EBRD where he works now.
His professional details are visible in LinkedIn, but it doesn’t seem that Bivol has ever wanted to consult them or contact him, for that matter. Mitrev can be joined easily and, despite being quite disgusted by the whole affair, was open to answer my questions. By the way, as the EBRD rules require, Mitrev reports each year his and his family financial and property situation, to the relevant department of control in the Bank, the Chief Compliance Officer.
One million here…
It looks to me that it’s precisely by overlooking such details that Bivol has built its allegation.
“In terms of my work at the EBRD [Bivol] have completely ignored my wages for more than two years [2002, 2003 and the first half of 2014] and arbitrarily cut a large chunk from the rest. They failed to take into account additional social and retirement benefits, totalling in my case over 50% of the base salary during the period. According to the bank regulations, retirement benefits can be withdrawn, as I have done, in advance for purchasing a home”, Mitrev told me.
The total wages Mitrev received for this period (September 2002 to 2009 and May to July 2014) are over $2.37 million dollars. Of that sum, Bivol has conveniently ‘lost’ half.
…one million there …
Furthermore, Bivol’s “investigation” has arbitrarily assumed that between 2009 and 2014 Mitrev, while running an international consultancy business from Sofia and Paris, was making barely the equivalent of the Smic, the French minimal salary. The basis of the assumption remains a mystery. “My private business during that period was going quite well”, Mitrev told me, “I am not going into the details – suffice to say that my tax returns in Bulgaria are proof enough”.
In addition, Bivol has halved the value of the real estate sold during this period by the family in Bulgaria. This bias also raises questions, since the figures are easily accessible. Bivol also “forgot” to take into account the rent income from the purchased real estate – abroad and in Bulgaria.
Another trick to make it appear that the couple didn’t have the funds to buy their apartments is by inflating the couple’s expenses. Bivol assumed that Bokova and Mitrev have spent one third of their income during the reported period as daily expenses – a total of over one million US dollars. And this is despite the fact that Bivol is aware that the family has lived during this time in Paris in apartments provided at no cost by the Bulgarian Embassy and by UNESCO.
After looking at the figures, it seems to me that Bivol has arbitrarily created a “black hole” assuming such huge daily expenses, which has conveniently swallowed another million. According to Bivol’s assumption, ten years in a row, month after month, the family would have spent 10 thousand dollars per month just as pocket money.
So much for fact checking. Yes, the couple Bokova-Mitrev has bought apartments in Paris, London and New York. But it’s their money, and Bivol’s calculations and not only biased, but unprofessional and obviously aimed at inflicting prejudice. Bokova has better things to do, but if I was her, I would sue.
P.S. Thanks for all the messages on Facebook confirming my calculations. (I’m now updating this blogpost, five hours after publication.) Basically all those who wrote tell me that there are several other ways Bivol has insidiously tried to make believe that the income of the family is not enough to pay for the real estate.
One of the messages tells me that Bivol has used rates of the Bulgarian currency (BGN) as from present day, although the property sales in Bulgaria took place several years ago. Indeed, there’s a big difference, and just in this case it is of $55,000 – in other words, the two properties sold in Bulgaria were worth not $380,000, as the Bivol article claims, but $435,000.
Thanks, this is correct, and yes, I figured it out myself. But I decided to not to go into the small details, just trying to get the big picture. Having said this, even the smallest detail confirms the overall bias by Bivol.