Bulgaria: Telecom Firm Buyer Denies Ties to Sanctioned Oligarch

A businessman who bought a majority stake in Bulgaria’s largest telecoms company has denied ties to a sanctioned oligarch.

Vivacom logoAt a press conference yesterday in Sofia, Bulgaria, Belgian-Russian investor Pierre Louvrier and other members of the LIC33 investment group said they were not linked to Konstantin Malofeev, a mogul who is subject to international sanctions for the illegal funding of Ukrainian rebels.

The group also clarified that LIC33 stands for Luxembourg Investment Company 33 and that it is based in Luxembourg. It was previously thought that the “L” in LIC33 stood for Louvrier, and the firm’s website gave an address in Paris, France.

Bulgarian investigative reporting organization Bivol pointed to links this week between Louvrier and Malofeev, citing a report by Russian business daily Vedomosti that Louvrier’s company CFG Capital had concluded partnership agreements in the technology sector with Malofeev’s Marshall Capital. A press release from November 2014 on the Marshall Capital website appears to confirm the link noted by Bivol. The statement mentions the creation of a joint venture, CFG Marshall, for an investment plan of more than € 2 billion (US$ 2.2 million). 

Commenting on the collaboration of his CFG Capital and Malofeev's Marshall Capital, Louvrier is quoted on the press release saying: "I am confident that synergies from the partnership between the two high-class teams of specialists in the field of investment will bring both companies to new ideas and new opportunities for businesses, which will improve the efficiency of their work. In the near future we expect to announce new projects in the Russian market."

LIC33, chaired by Louvrier, announced that it had bought shares in the Bulgarian Telecom Company, known as Vivacom, and several other companies formerly owned by Tsvetan Vassilev for €1 (US$ 1.09) last week.

Vassilev, the majority owner of Corporate Commercial which failed in June, is reportedly living in Belgrade, Serbia, while a court deliberates over an extradition request from Bulgaria, according to Bloomberg.

LIC33 has committed to repay the companies’ € 900million (US$ 980million) debts. However the source of the funds with which it will do so remains unclear.

After the press conference, the Bulgarian government demanded LIC33 and all investors "must give official information about the origin of the funds" so that it can assess the company’s legitimacy.