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Mega scandal in gambling – Part 2


It is the “Banker Studio – part 2 – the background. With me today are Tsvetomir and Boyan Naydenov. Only their father Stefan – Tsekata Naydenov  - a legendary figure - is absent today.


Now let’s go back to the 90s – a period known for its style and actions we considered  swept away a long time ago.  It seems its characteristics emerged again. Let’s start from the beginning. It has been clear for so many years that the business relations between Bozhkov and your father Stefan are based on trust and mutual respect which helped them develop and run significant projects. How was the first idea for private betting in BG created? It was, as far as I remember, at the beginning of the 90s, maybe 1993 or 1994 with Bozhkov taking part in it and the business began to blossom.

 

Our father set up the gambling business in BG in 1990 after the unification of Germany. He began preparing letterheads and forms of the football matches, results and betting odds, written in his technical font and he distributed these forms in the “Ivan Vazov” theatre garden. Then we bought the first slot mashine and hired one third of the famous at that time “Columbia”café, where all fans and experts in football and bettors were present. This café was a landmark in the neighbourhood during the years of communism for all dealing with football betting. So how we set up this business.

It was your idea, your know-how and your investments?

Exactly so.

Where was Bozhkov at that very time? What did he do?

He used to drink coffee in our café with too much sugar in it. And that lasted for 3 years. We earned sufficiently enough. Until we heard the first regulation of gambling would be introduced. It was in April 1993. We called a family council to see how to comply with the new rules and decided to turn to Iliya Pavlov. At that time he was in the USA for a month. We were in a hurry.

You were seeking new, bigger investments?

No, just to feel secure. Something more, we foresaw the gambling business would grow hugely and would not be within the financial power of our family to run it properly. Then we heard Vasil wanted to make such a game and we decided to offer him partnership instead of being competitors. Bozhkov agreed under 60% to 40% in his favour, later he introduced Tumparov as our future manager and insisted that both sides should give him 3% each. Then he brought around Boris Bekyarov and told us to give him 5% out of our share. So, we said OK just anything for peace. That’s how the new company was set up. Let’s remind you that up to 1993 our family possessed gaming points, casinos in 6 big cities in BG. But at this period of time there weren’t any new regulations in the gambling business, it was in fact forbidden by law.

It was rumoured around that at that time Bozhkov had reached an agreement with Bulgarian sports totes to take Toto 1 – bets on matches and sports games and not dare to touch Toto 2 – the digital tote. Was it true? Because Toto 1 simply vanished in the air.

Well, we don’t know but Toto 1, compared with odds games has no chances of survival or nearly so. It is because odds games are more attractive, it is the same in the world. Not a single tote can survive against a game  of fixed odds. The curious matter is that when we started Euro football the funds for that partnership were given by our family. Bozhkov didn’t give a penny. That’s his trade mark. I don’t know if the ratio 60% to 40% is his trait as well but throughout the years when offering him to co-invest in an enterprise, he always rejected, except for some emergency situation. He used to say: ”Now, you give the money, we’ll even out afterwards”, and that moment never came.

Let’s now say a few words about Stefan Naydenov – a legendary man I’ve had the honour to know, who has helped a great deal of people in need. He was thought to have laid the basics of Bozhkov’s big money. Who drew the direction and gave him the impetus to enlarge his business empire.  Is that true?

We should ask our father but from the very beginning Euro football was a very profitable company.

When did you decide to open up to the on-line market?  Some still think Efbet means Euro football bet.

Well, that was our first idea regarding the name and the abbreviations. We and Bozhkov are partners in some 10 firms but we still develop some 70 family-owned companies with various activities which have nothing to do with Vasil. It is the gambling part of that business Bozhkov wanted to shark up. Since 200-2003 we have invited out Bulgarian associates to start Internet betting. Yhe constant answer of Vasil was: “I shall forbid the Internet business in BG, so I don’t care.” Tumparov said people wouldn’t be attracted by Internet betting. All prefer betting live, good and cosy atmosphere around, gorgeous girls, etc. And so up to 2003.

In 2002 we sold 49% to Sokratis Kokaliss from Euro football and decided to offer that business to some of our Greek partners. I took the plane, arrived in Athens, discussed the issue with Antonopulos – CEO of Introvot , who briefed me that it’s not their priority at that time, that they have drawn some plans for development in the USA and Australia. According to the Greeks the Internet has no future at all and they refused to participate.

It is a very strange stand.

Yes, their position was strange but it was a fact. So we had another family meeting and decided to start the Internet business alone, with money on hand. I flew to Malta and started the procedure of getting a license issued. It took us about a year to cover all requirements of the Regulator of Malta. In 2006 was the first circulation of the games during either the European or World football championship under the trade mark  Balkanbet and of the Maltese company‘s name was Euro football Limited.

Here pops up the question why you established the company in Malta.

At that time Malta was the biggest centre for issuing such licenses in the EU, since Malta has been an EU member state before BG. We wanted to play legally and fairly, that’s why we chose the most legal centre in the EU for on-line betting. That’s how we began under the Balkanbet mark. A very difficult start, we lost a lot, we worked 24/7. Our associates in Euro football used to laudg at us and mock us for the first five years. They even told our father: “Tseka, your kids will spend all your money”. Here in BG those types of betting were treated illegal. In 2007 our country become an EU member state with regulations applied in all countries without exceptions. Before this year on-line betting in BG was considered illegal. After excruciating work we somehow managed to financially come to 0:0. In 2012 the Law of Gambling was accepted and in that very day Vasil placed us in the black list of Bulgarian Gambling Committee. We applied for a license and the chairman of the commission at that time told us where the “partner” fire had come from.

Let’s now walk along the last segment of the road – up to June, 12, when you were threatened with murder by Bozhkov. In the normal countries such words, if proven, lead to many years in prison for who spoke them.

Vasil probably saw that Efbet is site number 1 in BG, which has left behind all its competitors. That was the moment that sharpened his appetite. His threats underwent some gradations. On June, 12, he claimed 51% of Efbet on-line only. During the following meetings he expanded his pretentions – now he wanted all our family business – Greece, England, Romania, Serbia, Italy, Spain, Denmark – where the license is pending. Growing in voracity. His threat is simple – “Transfer 51% of your business to me, otherwise I’ll kill you.” We know that if we do so, we’ll land in the same situation as with Euro football – in the street. And then he could kill us hassle-free, even with our own money.

So we have no other way-out except to show all we know openly to the public. And each and every of us to bear the consequences.

What will the next course of action be in this mega scandal in your opinion? BGN 265 million of unpaid taxes, another 205 million…

Firstly, we’ll give some files to the prosecution, this sum of 205 has nothing to do with the previous one, It’s… We have piles of documents.

We approached the authorities in Dec, 5th.  “New games” and National Lottery paid their taxes for Nov. the old way. It cannot be hidden that the taxes are millions less than what the law says. Time must come to put an end to that. I am sure their license could be revoked for tax evasion according to the Gambling law.

As I see we witness a rupture in the state, the law, the administration. One cannot hide taxes unless there is opportunities to break through the regulations some way or another. Where is the rupture? In the Gambling Commission?

Exactly. The Commission. It is a paradox but if you manage to put reins on the Gambling Commission, you are free to do whatever you like.

Where is NRA then?

It doesn’t see the declarations. They are lodged to the Commission and stay there. In fact they pass by NRA and only three people operate the commission’s software, so…. NRA get the statements without knowing what exactly should be paid. They don’t see the real reports, kept in the Commission. For one and the same game Bozhkov and the State lottery pay different taxes. The lower are Bozhkov’s of course.

As we can see a bomb is ticking in the Gambling Commission. There lies the origin and the embroilment of the problem.

We have been in this sector for 30 years. There is no one to know better than we do the subtleties of our business. We’ve done dome investigation and found out that Bozhkov’s  firms are mega unfair competition to us and other gambling companies. It’s distortion of the business and the market. We have reported to the Europian Competition Commission and the respective Bulgarian one. They have no defense thesis to respond, they are subject to ongoing checks now and they fell silent. Silent are the crap media as well. We don’t have media of our own

The media silence around this giant scandal is very suspicious. A row in a neighbourhood would arise much more media attention. Hundreds of unpaid taxes to the detriment of our state and…silence.

Fortunately, the state has responded. It has launched examinations on the matter.

And last, how will this scandal evolve, do you expect the prosecution to be referred to or any tougher measures to be imposed?

We know only that if we were Bozhkov’ company, we would have been revoked of the license a long time ago. If we don’t pay the excise duty, the casino will be shut down.

What’s the name of the Gambling commission boss? Shall we remember his name?

Alexander Georgiev and he is a freshman.

 We can notice  some problems have been inherited in our institutions!?

Things have been moving by inertia since 2015. No one has paid any attention.

Ok, guys, wish you luck, success and much courage. You’ll need all of it.

 

You may watch the second part of the interview in Bulgarian here

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