Bulgaria’s Largest Telecoms Firm Shares Bought by Group Linked to Sanctioned Oligarch
A majority stake in the largest telecoms company in Bulgaria has been bought by a group linked to an oligarch close to Putin, according to a probe by the investigative journalism outlet Bivol.
The Louvrier Investment Company (LIC33) announced on March 19 that it had bought shares in the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company, known as Vivacom AD, from previous owner Tsvetan Vassilev.
LIC33’s chairman is Belgian-Russian businessman Pierre Louvrier, and its website lists a company address in Paris which Bivol, an OCCRP partner, discovered is a rented mailbox. According to Bivol, no company with the name LIC33 legally exists in France and it is unclear where the group is registered.
Louvrier, a vocal supporter of the Russian annexation of Crimea, has close ties to Gerard Depardieu, a French actor who recently embraced his Russian roots and was granted citizenship in 2013. Louvrier maintains connections to several other Bulgaria-based companies, including military defense producer Dunarit and aircraft repair company Avionams.
According to Bivol, Louvrier has partnered with Russian mogul Konstantin Malofeev in technology investments planned through his company CFG Capital and Malofeev’s firm Marshall Capital.
Malofeev, whom Bivol calls the “busboy of Putin”, has been sanctioned by Canada and the European Union for allegedly financing separatist groups in Ukraine.
Bivol is concerned that the financial backing of LIC33 along with Louvrier’s personal and business ties suggest Vivacom will fall under the influence of parties close to the Kremlin.
Bivol previously reported that Malofeev could be planning to buy Bulgarian television network TV7.