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AGE OF THE ASSASSIN

A missing spy, a death and a fired official – the plot thickens in Constantia killings

A missing spy, a death and a fired official – the plot thickens in Constantia killings
Ivan Geshev was axed from his post as Bulgaria's chief public prosecutor after he claimed he was the target of an assassination plot by Krasimir Kamenov. (Image: EPA-EFE / Vassil Donev) Caryn-Constantia killings

Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor has been forced out of his job weeks after he said he was the target of a plot involving Krasimir Kamenov, who was assassinated in Cape Town recently

The assassination of Krasimir Ka­­me­nov, wanted for crimes including murder in Bulgaria, and three others in Cape Town last month, has taken on a ­political hue.

This is because of comments about Kamenov made by former Bulgarian official Ivan Geshev and what has happened to Geshev’s place in government. About two weeks ago, he was fired as Bulgaria’s prosecutor-general.

Kamenov, his wife Gergana and two others, believed to be their employees, were assassinated in the upmarket Cape Town suburb of Constantia on 25 May. All four were shot.

Several other intriguing issues have cropped up in connection with the killings.

They include links to a developing global crypto fraud saga now involving a former Luxembourg government spy, who is apparently on the run. Daily Maverick has also reported that other wanted Bulgarian suspects may be, or may have been, in South Africa.

Crime scene experts process a multiple murder scene involving four foreign nationals in Constantia on 25 May 2023 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

Murder, death and politics

One of them was Angel Hristov, who was wanted by Interpol for organised crime and extortion.

He reportedly died of a heart attack on 3 June, nine days after Kamenov’s murder, after slipping back into Bulgaria.

Some Bulgarian media outlets quoted that country’s interior minister, Ivan De­­mer­­dzhiev, as saying there needed to be an investigation into whether there were connections between Kamenov’s murder, Hristov’s death and what was happening to Geshev, who claimed criminals were targeting him.

On 15 June, the president of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev, fired Geshev. A notice on the presidency’s website said: “Today President Rumen Radev dismissed Ivan Geshev from the position of Chief Prosecutor of the Republic of Bulgaria.”

The notice did not specify why Geshev was fired, but he has been at the centre of controversies in Bulgaria.

In a statement issued on his Facebook page on 19 June, Geshev said he would “continue the battle for truth and justice” in Bulgaria.

He also claimed that criminals, some within the state, were targeting the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office.

“Our consistent struggle against criminal oligarchs and against thieving party leaders has led in recent months to an unprecedented unification of senior politicians, mafia and shady businesses,” Geshev said.

It was not the first time he made allegations about state capture in Bulgaria.

And this is where matters loop back to Kamenov.

Krasimir Kamenov was one of four people murdered in Constantia, Cape Town, on 25 May 2023. He was wanted by Bulgarian authorities. (Photo: Interpol website)

‘Targets’ in two countries

In March and April, Geshev told reporters in Bulgaria that Kamenov was involved in conspiring against him in a state capture plot.

On 1 May, an explosive device detonated along a road near Sofia as Geshev’s convoy drove by. Geshev, who was not injured, said he believed the blast had been an attempt on his life. Detractors, however, said the bomb attack had been staged to distract from his lacklustre performance as chief prosecutor.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Constantia killings — How a State Capture plot and bomb blast ‘targeting’ Bulgaria’s top prosecutor fit in

Weeks later, on 25 May, Kamenov and the three others were murdered in Cape Town.

Three days later, according to a Facebook post, Geshev said a threat had been made against him. He did not post details of it.

In the case of Kamenov, Daily Maverick previously reported that the embassy of Bulgaria said that on 6 April – 49 days before Kamenov and the three others were assassinated – it had told South African authorities that he was in the country and that he faced arrest.

Kamenov had been flagged by Interpol as being wanted by Bulgaria in connection with a murder threat, murder and extortion.

He had been wanted in connection with the murder of a former policeman, Lyubomir Ivanov, who was shot in Sofia in March last year.

Ruja Ignatova is one of the FBI’s top 10 wanted suspects. She ran OneCoin, a billion-dollar crypto scam that was based in Bulgaria but operated globally. (Photo: FBI website. Sharpened with AI)

‘Crypto queen’ connections

Daily Maverick also reported that Kamenov may have had information about Ruja Ignatova of Bulgaria, who is among the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s top 10 most wanted people. He may have planned to tell what he knew to the US.

Ignatova allegedly headed a global crypto scam that operated under various names, including OneCoin and OneLife.

Documents found in the former policeman Ivanov’s home after his assassination reportedly suggested that Ignatova had been murdered in 2018 on a yacht in the Ionian Sea between Italy, Greece and Albania.

This was never officially confirmed so she may still be alive.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Constantia killings and FBI-wanted ‘Cryptoqueen’ Ruja Ignatova’s intriguing SA links

Ex-spy on the run

About two weeks ago it emerged from media reports that another suspect in the OneCoin scam, Frank Schneider – a former spy for the Luxembourg government who went on to run a private intelligence firm – had disappeared. Schneider had been due to be extradited from France to the US.

A US indictment against him said: “Schnei­der helped to operate an international fraud scheme involving the sale of a purported cryptocurrency known as ‘OneCoin’ – by, among other things, managing the scheme’s proceeds and evading law enforcement investigations into the scheme.”

The BBC reported that a warrant for Schnei­der’s arrest had been issued on 16 May, suggesting that it was already known by then that he was dodging the authorities.

Schneider, therefore, became a wanted man nine days before Kamenov’s murder in South Africa and about a month before Geshev was fired.

The OneCoin saga is developing further in other quarters as well.

Paper trails

On 18 June, Jonathan Levy, an attorney representing some OneCoin victims around the world, wrote to Bulgaria’s Ministry of Justice. He pointed out that the scheme had been operating in that country while Geshev was chief prosecutor, and that this was while elements of the state were opting to work with criminals, not against them.

Levy’s letter was accompanied by a declaration by Duncan Arthur, a citizen of Ireland and South Africa who was once the compliance head for Standard Bank Africa.

Arthur also previously worked for Ignatova and, after her disappearance in 2017, her brother Konstantin Ignatov. Ignatov, who visited Cape Town in 2018, was arrested in the US in 2019 in Arthur’s presence.

Meeting ‘Krasimir’

In a declaration to Bulgaria’s Ministry of Justice, dated 16 June 2023, Arthur said: “I was employed by the now-defunct English company RavenR Capital Ltd (‘RRC’) beginning in October 2016. RRC was originally the family investment office for OneCoin’s CEO Ruja Ignatova.”

Another part of the declaration said: “[A] visitor to the RRC office [in the UK] in 2016 was a Bulgarian named ‘Krasimir’ who may have been Krasimir Kamenov who was recently assassinated in Cape Town with three other individuals under circumstances suggesting an organized crime ‘hit’.

“The Krasimir I spoke with at RRC London made small talk with me specifically about Cape Town when he learned I was South African.” DM

This article first appeared in Daily Maverick’s sister newspaper DM26, which is available countrywide for R29.

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    State capture seems to be growing the world over,with global linkage with organized crime

  • bigbad jon says:

    I didn’t realise that the DM had such an extensive bulgarian readership, no doubt supporting their right to investigative journalism..
    Otherwise what’s the point of text and videos in the bulgarian language?

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

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