AGE OF THE ASSASSIN
Constantia killings — How a State Capture plot and bomb blast ‘targeting’ Bulgaria’s top prosecutor fit in
On 1 May this year an explosive device detonated in Sofia — Bulgaria’s public prosecutor Ivan Geshev said it was an attempt on his life and tied to State Capture, while some of his detractors said it was a ruse. Krasimir Kamenov, killed in Cape Town last week, is linked to this broader saga.
A bomb blast and accusations about a State Capture-style conspiracy targeting elements of the Bulgarian government have ties to the murder suspect wanted there and who himself was killed in Cape Town last week.
In March and April this year, Bulgarian media reported that the country’s Prosecutor General, Ivan Geshev, and some of his colleagues, had alleged that Krasimir Kamenov was involved in conspiring against him.
Geshev, who has publicly said he has “information on… trading in influence and political corruption,” reportedly detailed how criminal elements had ganged up against the parts of government going after crooks, roughly describing what is known in South Africa as State Capture.
On 9 April a Bulgarian media outlet also reported that Kamenov had allegedly been involved in murders there and was in South Africa.
The publishing of that detail meant that his location, in terms of the country he was in, was in the public domain.
Aside from authorities, Kamenov’s enemies could therefore have been tipped off about his whereabouts.
Given the various allegations about him emerging in Bulgaria, he was, in a sense, a marked man.
Kamenov was indeed in South Africa, as reported in Bulgaria — and on 25 May he, together with his wife, Gergana, and two others believed to be their employees, were found murdered in a home in the upmarket Cape Town suburb of Constantia.
They had been shot.
Earlier this week Daily Maverick reported that the Embassy of Bulgaria said that on 6 April this year — 49 days before Kamenov and the three others were assassinated — it told South African authorities that he was in the country and that he faced arrest.
High-priority international suspect
An Interpol red notice — an international request for authorities to arrest a listed figure — said Kamenov was wanted by Bulgaria in connection with a murder threat, murder and extortion.
Daily Maverick had also reported that, aside from being wanted over murder, Kamenov may also have had information about a $4-billion crypto fraud scheme involving a US-wanted suspect who may — or may not — have been killed.
Issues linked to his name also stretch in another direction, a political one, because of the alleged State Capture-style conspiracy that Bulgaria’s Geshev spoke about in April.
This is where matter takes another twist.
‘Bomb intended to kill me’
On 1 May this year, weeks after Bulgarian media reported on Geshev’s comments about being targeted, an explosive device detonated along a road near Sofia as Geshev’s convoy had driven by.
He was not hurt.
Bulgaria’s National Investigation Service head, Borislav Sarafov, speaking to reporters, referred to the incident as “a terrorist act.”
The European Public Protector’s Office issued a statement saying that “criminals who dare to target any member of the judiciary should be considered extremely dangerous and combatted with utmost determination.”
A statement by Geshev, published on the website of the Prosecutor’s Office of Bulgaria on 18 May, which happened to be a week before Kamenov was murdered, said: “I consider the bomb attack on me as an attempt intended to kill me.”
However, not everyone believed him.
Politico Europe reported that some thought the bomb attack may have been staged to derail attempts to hold him to account for not successfully cracking down on criminals who had infiltrated the state.
Staged attack suspicions
It quoted Atanas Atanasov, co-chairman of the Democratic Bulgaria party, as saying the attack was clearly staged and: “This supposed assassination attempt has the main goal of thwarting the radical reform of the Prosecutor’s Office through glorification of the victim.”
I missed this article by journalist Ivan Bakalov from May 2nd, but it sums up the latest developments quite well.
— Dr Radosveta Vassileva (@radosveta_vass) May 6, 2023
Geshev, though, in his statement, was adamant he was targeted.
He said he had tackled domestic crime, including the murders of elderly people, and had tried to crack down on organised crime.
“We also continued with oligarchs, who everyone thought were untouchable, and now they are hiding in various destinations — Dubai, Serbia, probably guarded by the Russians, paying lobbyists sums of 350,000 dollars and others,” he said.
‘Political mafia’ and ‘Russian influence’
Geshev added that cases of terrorism and “malicious Russian influence” were investigated.
“As a result, the prosecution was heavily attacked. The political mafia, the oligarchs, the criminals and all who want to continue stealing have united.”
Geshev also spoke of attempts to get him to resign.
“All of this shows that someone thinks I’m a flaw in the system and that I need to be rooted out so that the system can continue to function in the same way. The way that enables corruption and makes Bulgarian citizens live in poverty.”
In this journalist’s book, Clash of the Cartels: Unmasking the global drug kingpins stalking South Africa, a chapter focuses on Bulgaria.
The book details State Capture parallels between that country and South Africa.
Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Strip club fronts, drugs and diamond smuggling’ — book delves into Bulgaria and SA crime links
It said while Bulgaria had an “oligarch mafia” to contend with, South Africa, while under the Jacob Zuma administration, had a government “skewed to promote and sustain a faction of the ANC at the expense of the country”.
The Skull, gambling and bribery
In the Bulgarian saga, Geshev’s comments about “Russian influence” may have been a reference to Vasil Bozhkov, also of Bulgaria and also known as The Skull, who appeared to be an opponent.
The UK government, which sanctioned Bozhkov in February this year, described him as “reportedly Bulgaria’s richest man, who made his fortune in the gambling industry” and “used bribery extensively to protect his business interests.”
In June 2021 the United States’s Treasury Department announced it was sanctioning individuals including Bozkhov, whose name it spelt as Vassil Bojkov.
Influence over Bulgarian government
It referenced Russia and described Bozhkov as “a Bulgarian businessman and oligarch, [who] has bribed government officials on several occasions.”
The US Treasury Department said: “Bojkov also planned to provide a sum of money to a former Bulgarian official and a Bulgarian politician earlier this year to help Bojkov create a channel for Russian political leaders to influence Bulgarian government officials.”
In the case of Kamenov, he was also allegedly involved in murky arenas involving government elements and was implicated in Bulgaria in the murder of an ex-cop.
The publication Novinite reported last week that Kamenov was accused of being involved in the killing of former policeman Lyubomir Ivanov, who was fatally shot in Sofia in March last year.
Other reports in Bulgari said that Ivanov had, more than a decade ago, been arrested for corruption.
Murdered or in hiding
Daily Maverick also reported that Kamenov may have had information about a former ally and his links to Ruja Ignatova, of Bulgaria, who is among the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s top 10 wanted suspects.
She allegedly headed a global crypto scam that operated under various names, including OneCoin and OneLife.
Krasimir Kamenov – #Karo killed in Capetown was our source for the police report stating that his former associate Christophoros Amanatidis #Taki ordered the murder of the #OneCoin #cryptoqueen #RujaIgnatova on a yacht in Ionian sea. He was about to say more to US investigators.
— birdbg (@birdbg2) May 26, 2023
Some reports, based on documents found in ex-cop Ivanov’s home following his assassination, suggested Ignatova was murdered in 2018 on a yacht in the Ionian Sea between Italy, Greece and Albania.
That was never officially confirmed.
Ronald Shimko, a special agent with the FBI, in a 2019 statement about Ignatova’s brother Konstantin Ignatov, who later pleaded guilty to his role in the OneCoin saga, said she had stopped appearing online in 2017, which was unusual.
Shimko believed Ignatova “grew concerned about possible prosecution and arrest, and took steps to avoid any such arrest.” DM