South Africa

CONSTANTIA KILLINGS

From SA to Romania – ‘Evidence’ of global crooks crafting a US-based plot to topple Bulgaria’s law enforcers

From SA to Romania – ‘Evidence’ of global crooks crafting a US-based plot to topple Bulgaria’s law enforcers
From left: Konstantin Ignatov. (Photo: Instagram) | Georgi Rumenov Stefanov. (Photo: Interpol website) | Krasimir Kamenov. (Photo: Interpol website) | Ruja Ignatova. (Photo: FBI website) | Crime scene. (Photo: Brenton Geach / Gallo Images) | Stanislav Sevdanilov Stamenov. (Photo: Interpol Website) (Graphic: Jocelyn Adamson)

Krasimir Kamenov, one of the four Bulgarians assassinated in Cape Town in May, was among a group of alleged thugs operating across countries, from South Africa to Romania, and accused of planning the US and European Union-based plot.

About six weeks before Krasimir Kamenov was assassinated in Cape Town, Bulgarian prosecutors publicly announced he was central to an alleged plot, that could threaten their country’s national security, to remove high-ranking police officers and magistrates from office.

They had also announced Kamenov, known by the nickname Kuro (or Karo), was likely in South Africa.

Daily Maverick can reveal that statements from the Prosecutor’s Office of Bulgaria, along with other documents, voice recordings, transcripts of phone calls and photographs, all form part of an apparent evidence bundle. The prosecutor’s office condensed some of it into a YouTube video.

‘Entrenched corruption’

Details from the bundle suggest Kamenov was among a group of Bulgarian men with key contacts, ranging from journalists to those close to government, who were acutely aware of what was happening in high-level Bulgarian political circles.

They may have been meddling in those circles.

While the names of their alleged targets in Bulgaria’s government have not yet been publicised, accusations previously surfaced that some of those enforcing the law were being targeted to prevent them from going after corrupt colleagues colluding with criminals.

In February this year, the US sanctioned several Bulgarians who were prominent in political circles.

The US’s Department of Treasury had issued a statement saying those sanctioned pointed to “the extent [in Bulgaria] to which corruption has become entrenched across ministries, parties, and state-owned industries and demonstrate the critical need for the political will to implement rule of law reform and to fight corruption.”

Bulgarian prosecutors allege they have evidence, including documents, photographs and voice recordings, against a group of men accused of conspiring to oust top law enforcers in their country. Among the group of men was Krasimir Kamenov, one of four Bulgarians assassinated in Cape Town in May 2023, who was wanted in his home country in connection with murder. (Screenshot: YouTube account of Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Bulgaria)

Cash and drugs were among items seized in Bulgaria during investigations into a group of men accused of conspiring to oust top law enforcers in their country. (Screenshot: YouTube account of Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Bulgaria)

Bulgarian prosecutors allege a list of law enforcers, who criminals from that country were targeting to discredit and have them fired, was discovered during investigations in a State Capture style plot. (Screenshot: YouTube account of Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Bulgari)

‘Campaign in the US and EU’

In terms of the “evidence” bundle that the Prosecutor’s Office of Bulgaria publicised ahead of Kamenov’s murder, it formed the basis of a case against a group of suspects including him.

“Part of the collected evidence [was] presented, from which it was established that persons subject to investigations, defendants, and others, held meetings and conversations with the aim of organizsing a campaign in the USA, in member states of the European Union and on the territory of the country to discredit… the activities of law enforcement authorities, including taking actions that would compromise and remove senior magistrates and police officers,” the office said in a statement on 13 April 2023.

The statement also referenced Kamenov by name — 26 times — and said he had a “probable residence in South Africa.”

Forty-two days later, on 25 May, Kamenov, his wife Gergana and two others believed to be their employees, were assassinated in the upmarket Cape Town suburb of Constantia.

Police are yet to announce arrests.

Assassinations and a dismissal

At the time of his killing, Kamenov was flagged by Interpol as being wanted by Bulgaria in connection with a murder threat, murder and extortion.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Constantia killings – Bulgaria’s forewarning to SA and a global billion-dollar crypto scam

About two months ahead of his assassination, on 27 March, it emerged in Bulgaria that he was wanted over the murder of a former policeman, Lyubomir Ivanov, who was shot in Sofia in March last year.

Meanwhile, the US and European Union-based campaign case against Kamenov and co is now a backdrop to what happened to Ivan Geshev – he was dismissed as Bulgaria’s prosecutor-general on 15 June.

Geshev had been among those speaking out about the Kamenov-linked case — he said he was the target of a State Capture style plot and that criminals were trying to oust him.

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

While some may have viewed his State Capture claims as an attempt to distract from failures relating to his job, his dismissal may now add weight to his claims. 

This overall saga, that has played out publicly, dates back several months.

‘Secret report’ and death threats

In March this year, the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office issued a statement announcing they had received a “secret report” from security services that detailed evidence of organised crime.

The media statement said that in 2022 the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office initiated pre-trial proceedings into “an organised criminal group established for the purpose of receiving proceeds from criminal activities, money laundering and tax crimes.”

As part of the case, an individual with the initials TI was charged with extortion, while another with the initials DG who was already convicted of fraud, was charged in relation to distributing cocaine.

Based on a subsequent Bulgarian prosecutor’s office statement, Daily Maverick established that TI is likely Tony Ivanov, who was believed to be in Spain, while DG is reference to Dilian Georgiev, who was detained in Bulgaria and had previous convictions for crimes including attempted fraud.

Kamenov allegedly operated with them.

The Bulgarian prosecutor’s office statement, from March this year, said: “During the course of the investigation concerning one of the accused in the present proceedings, threats were made against the life… of a magistrate.”

‘Troublemaking’ judges and investigators

 It added that search operations were conducted, that drugs and €21,000 were seized, and documents were found.

One of the documents was allegedly headed: “TROUBLEMAKERS TO BE FIRED.” 

It listed “the names and current positions to date of judges, prosecutors and investigators from the closed structures of the specialised justice system.”

However, the names on the list were not made public.

In an April statement, the Bulgarian prosecutor’s office alleged that aside from Kamenov, Georgiev and Ivanov, another individual was involved in the plot, namely Ovidiu Semenescu of France and Romania, where he was reportedly previously detained for fraud in relation to water contracts.

Other alleged evidence against the group included a letter stating that “Tstetso from Belgrade” had “funding” for Geshev — this was likely reference to Ivan Geshev — and that it was “important to find people to rant” against Geshev.

Dead man talking

During a search at a residence used by DG (in other words, Georgiev), two flash drives with sound files on them were found and confiscated.

According to Bulgaria’s prosecutor’s office, the files included phone conversations between Kamenov and others.

The files, in Bulgarian, allegedly revealed that suspects were “taking measures to obstruct the activities of law enforcement bodies, appointments and dismissals in the system of the Ministry of the Interior.”

In one of the recordings, a man refers to “one of my cops,” implying he is in control of police officers, and later says “they” dig in his bank accounts “wherever I have them in the world.”

The man, in conversation with another, discusses “the elections.”

‘I’m down with the Americans’

 At one point the man also says: “I’m down with the Americans, bro.”

During another conversation between other individuals, a man states: “The Americans did much more with the fight against corruption in Bulgaria than the Europeans.”

Kovesi, presumably European Chief Prosecutor Laura Kovesi, is also discussed and pointed to as not getting “her prosecutor’s office together”.

Meanwhile, in a recorded conversation between men in a restaurant in Sofia, Geshev is mentioned as being “almost about to arrest Boyko” because “Boyko offered him for exchange coin against the Americans.” [sic]

Geshev, while still in office as Bulgaria’s chief prosecutor, had been looking into that country’s former prime minister, Boyko Borissov, over money laundering allegations linked to Spain.

At the end of May this year, roughly the time of Kamenov’s assassination, it was reported that Geshev wanted Borissov to give up his political immunity.

Russia and Ruja Ignatova

Based on what Bulgaria’s prosecuting office said it gathered against Kamenov and the men allegedly aligned with him, it was clear that politics, along with Geshev, and the US, were issues of interest to them.

Bulgaria has also cropped up in US politics.

In December last year Warren Davidson, a US congressman, wrote to US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen saying that reports of corruption relating to Geshev, who was still chief prosecutor in Bulgaria at the time, were concerning.

The letter was posted on a Twitter account under Davidson’s name.

It also referenced Russia.

“Bulgarian critical infrastructure and defence companies are routinely transferred to Russian sanctioned banks and other corrupt elements in spite of sanctions,” Davidson’s letter said.

It alleged that the Bulgarian prosecution also “terminated all investigations and measures” against US sanctioned Bulgarians.

Other matters link the US to Bulgaria — and to South Africa.

Daily Maverick previously reported that Kamenov possibly had information about Ruja Ignatova, of Bulgaria, who is among the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s top 10 wanted suspects.

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

She allegedly heading a $4-billion global crypto scam known as OneCoin.

Some news reports suggested Ignatova was killed in 2018, but this was never officially confirmed, and she remains wanted by the US.

Her brother Konstantin Ignatov, who also headed OneCoin, visited Cape Town in 2018 and he was arrested in the US the following year.

At the time of his assassination, Kamenov may have been providing, or about to provide, information about Ignatova to US investigators. DM

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