The name of the arms boss Petar Mandjoukov recently appeared in the scandal between President Rumen Radev and Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, with respect to the fact that he used to be the employer of the President’s advisor Ivo Hristov. Some suspicions were even voiced that he was the actual person, appointing the journalist in President’s team, since in the political circles, there are long-standing speculations that it is precisely the arms lobby that proposed Mr. Radev and supports his political career.
The arms boss Petar Mandjoukov completely clarifies this matter, answering in detail all the uncomfortable question in one of the most honest and sincere interviews he has ever given, exclusively for PIK. The businessman reveals if he has anything to do with President Rumen Radev, what are his relations with Georgi Parvanov, Sergey Stanishev and the Bulgarian Socialst Party (BSP), why he stopped supporting financially the “Duma” Newspaper and to whom did he sell BBT.
– Mr. Mandjoukov, do you know President Rumen Radev, what are your relations with him and have you lobbied for his nomination for the Head of State?
– I know and respect many generals, Bulgarian and foreign. Unfortunately, I have never met – even accidentally, at a public place – President Rumen Radev.
For many Bulgarians, his very origin from the army, his biography of an active officer, a fighter pilot and Head of the Air Force, are sufficient cause for respect and liking.
– It became evident that his closes advisor and the man who writes his speeches – the journalist Ivo Hristov, worked for you in the past. What were your relations with him and why did you choose him as the director of the television, where did you meet him and did you trust him? Who recommended him to you and did they vouch for Mr. Hristov?
– With respect to Ivo Hristov, I may sound a little unusual, but nobody ever introduced him to me. As a normal person, when I wake up in the morning, I watch the news programmes of the major TV stations. I became curious – and by the way I am a francophone – after a report on the biography of President Mitterrand, written by a Bulgarian journalist. The report also included an interview with him.
I was very impressed that such a very young Bulgarian journalist had found the courage and had the knowledge and ambition, to write a book on a politician of the scale of François Mitterrand. After the interview, I called that television and asked them to give me the phone number of that journalist – Ivo Hristov.
I called him personally, and after telling him who I was, I told him that I intended to make a TV project and asked him if he would be interested. I proposed that we meet and talk. Ivo Hristov came to my office and for one hour we exchanged thoughts, and established that he had the necessary knowledge and was very interested in developing such a TV project.
He assured me that he was able to organize a team, who would start the technical, programme and staff organization of everything. BBT was launched under his management, with his team. Several months after the TV station started broadcasting, watching it every morning, and as a person, fully funding that project, I had some with the team of the so-called morning block.
This was where we had a serious dispute with Ivo. When I insisted that this part of the programme needed an overhaul, one day all of them together – Ivo and 16-17 of the employees at the TV station, who were close to him, just failed to come to work and boycotted TV station’s programme. This was a very difficult situation for me, for I had to reorganize the station, find a new management within just a few hours, in order to make sure that the media would continue its operation.
This is when I invited Ulyana Pramova, who agreed. Within several days we managed to stabilized TV station’s programme. After Ulyana Pramova, who was invited to head the Bulgarian National Television, I appointed Stilyan Ivanov and ultimately – Kiril Gotsev. This is the story of Ivo Hristov’s appointment and how we separated – as you may understand – in not the most friendly and normal manner.
Ever since – this happened in 2003 – and until several months ago, I had never had any contacts with him. When I found out that he was appointed at such a high position, I allowed myself to merely congratulate him, formally, texting that I was happy about his new and responsible position, which I suppose he decided that he can cope with.
For the last time, just before Christmas I saw him, for he had said that his father had some health problems. Therefore I organized a meeting with two professors in medicine – close friends of mine, who could probably help with the treatment of his parents. This was the first and last conversation I’ve had with Mr. Ivo Hristov since he left BBT, and let me once again sincerely wish him success as the Head of President’s Office.
– Do you know Ivo Hristov’s father, who used to work in the Bulgarian intelligence in Istanbul and Brussels, do you maintain any contacts? Ivo Hristov’s father used to work for the Military Intelligence, also known as RUMNO and worked in some European capitals, do you know him from that time, in relation to your arms business?
– I have no idea where Ivo Hristov’s father used to work, and I have never talked to Ivo Hristov in detail about his parents. I knew his wife – Galya, who was part of BBT’s team, but this is how much I know about his family and relatives. And you seem to refer to a period, when my professional career did not suggested in any way, any acquaintance with such people.
– Is it true that it was actually you, who appointed Ivo Hristov in President’s team, during his elections campaign?
– This is rather a ridiculous question, considering the fact that I have just explained to you what my contacts with Ivo Hristov had been through the years, and also my contacts with Mr. Rumen Radev, before he was elected president. I have never, not once, met our current president – Mr. Rumen Radev.
For me, your question regarding some sort of an arms lobby, nominating the president – I don’t know where this idea comes from – but I can firmly deny any such connections. For me it sounds absurd that my name got mixed up in such a scenario.
You are giving me an exceptional, very serious role in the society, which I, unfortunately, do not play and do not want to play!
– How would you comment the suspicions that Rumen Radev is a political minion of the arms lobby, which you are also allegedly related to? And why does Tatyana Doncheva keep talking about this?
– As for the comments by some politicians, lawyers, etc., I would not discuss names, and you have just mentioned a name in your question – I mean – you’d better ask them what did they mean. And probably you should ask them first, how do they make their living. As lawyers, politicians, do they know what is their responsibility, on this hard path of political leaders and participants in the political life.
Anyone at such a position must know what they are talking about, and be held responsible for their words. I am sorry, but I would not bother to reply or comment on such ridiculous allegations.
– Have you had common contacts with Russia, together with Ivo Hristov? Is it possible that this is the reason why Ivo Hristov has no access to classified information?
– I do not know of any links between myself, Ivo Hristov and Russia! For me it is a strange allegation that together with Ivo Hristov – and I already explained that since 2003 and until just before Christmas, I had had no contacts with him whatsoever – and what can I have in common with Ivo Hristov and Russia?!! This is such an absurd question that I can’t see how can I even comment on it!
– Why did you discontinue your financial support of the “Duma“ Newspaper? Are you in any sort of relations with BSP and its management through the years? Are you currently a sponsor of that party, do you maintain contacts and what sort of contacts with the current leader Kornelia Ninova?
– My latest contacts with the BSP were somewhat ambiguous in terms of the good tone, proper personal and professional relations, because I started that project, based on my contacts with Mr. Georgi Parvanov, when he had just been elected Leader of the BSP.
Unfortunately for a reason, which still remains unknown to me, I had limited opportunities to carry out my business in Bulgaria, during Ivan Kostov’s Government, at that time I naturally tried to find an opportunity to support and contact the opposition to this political party, which practically repressed me and my business – for example: external observation, refusal to approve any of my agreements by the commission, issuing permits (at that time Hristo Mihaylovski was the Deputy Minister, in charge of this activity).
This is why I was introduced to Mr. Parvanov, I believed that young man, his morals, the motivation he had in that party, and ultimately I decided to support his establishment as BSP’s leader. Later, when we had met several times, I decided to restore the issuance of the Duma Newspaper, which Mr. Dimitar Ivanov had meanwhile turned into a mere insert to his new newspaper – Republic. When I took over, “Duma“ Newspaper had virtually been destroyed.
Based on my contacts with Georgi Parvanov I undertook the task to restore their party newspaper – “Duma“, in the spirit and with the style, it was launched by its creator – the deceased Stefan Prodev. This is my connection to the BSP, and after that, through Mr. Parvanov I met the young Sergey Stanishev, who was first appointed secretary of BSP’s international relations, and I used to have good personal relations with him, before he became prime minister.
You can find out more about my relations, based on the way things happened afterwards. After I restored “Duma“ Newspaper and after I launched the project BBT, it had all the proper qualities for serious and active participation non the advertising market. But only if it had proper broadcasting coverage – at least regional. We had both the confidence and readiness to apply for a national broadcasting license.
And you can now make conclusions about my relations with BSP – Georgi Parvanov – president, Sergey Stanishev – Prime Minister. He appointed both the Electronic Media Council, since it was well known to whom the majority of the MPs belonged, and the Communications Regulation Commission. and when the distribution of the new air frequencies for broadcasting TV stations started, everybody got licenses. Most were granted to TV 7. TV Europe, owned by President Petar Stoyanov’s brother – Emil Stoyanov received 5 regional licenses, and BBT – 0. Then I realized that those people at Positano (BSP’s headquarters) were interested in everything possible, but not in continuing a project, which was social to a certain extent and seemed to be leftist. It was the reason I closed the television and my involvement with the “Duma“ Newspaper.
It is important to note that I had acquired the brand “Duma“ Newspaper, based no numerous legal documents. When Mr. Stanishev and BSP’s management told me that I did not follow Party’s policy as an issuer, I replied that I would be more than happy to return to them everything I had developed, even the brand, and I wasn’t even required to do so.
The only thing I got was a sum of about BGN 100 000, through the sale of computers, desks and other property I had bought for newspaper’s offices. This is all history, closely related to the BBT Television, the issuance of the “Duma“ Newspaper and the reasons I put an end to those endeavours, which caused me much immaterial and a lot of material damage.
Apart from direct losses, while I was dealing with this media project, I lost a lot of energy and time, which affected my main business. I earned a lot of enemies in the opposite political space, without any good reason, because personally I am a social democrat. As a person, involved in private business, I cannot be a proletarian – neither I, nor my sons, for they would probably stand up for the interests of the more well-to-do strata of the Bulgarian population.
– You sold the BBT TV Station, as Prime Minister Borisov said – to Delyan Peevski, why are all your media projects unsuccessful and you always end up selling?
– I think I’ve made it perfectly clear why I let go of the newspaper and the TV station. And I did not sell BBT directly to Delyan Peevski. I negotiated with Tsvetan Vasilev and he said that he was to finance the transaction. I sold it to a company, indicated by Tsvetan Vasilev.
The bank specified a 3-year grace period for the payment, and during that time I received nothing and I had already transferred the media. After the expiration of this grace period, in 3 transfers in the course of 3 years, I received the price, which could not even cover my costs for acquiring the station. Let me mention, however, that during the last year, my partner at BBT was Krasimir Gergov. I think this is an interesting fact and I thank him for that. He is the one who helped this transaction come true.
– Why do you prefer standing behind the curtains of the media and do not answer to you public linking to various delicate situations in Bulgaria?
– I am not behind the curtains and I do nothing special in this respect on purpose, but rather due to my age and the absence of much free time. I am now convinced that publicity is only related to negative effects and distorted interpretations, and therefore I have decided not to give TV or other interviews. Can this decision of mine be considered part of political, lobbyist or secretive games?
This is an interpretation, which can help you assess the level and quality of our journalistic thought, as well as the professional level of our journalists. I can’t even think that this is the sole link and the sole explanation, why a man would refuse to be present in the media, and not due to the actual and much more substantial reasons that I have already explained.
To be accused that this is a form of concealing, behind-the-curtains political play – this seems so ugly, absurd and primitive.
– Why were you accused of allegedly paying for President Georgi Parvanov’s apartment? What are your relations with him?
– As for that famous apartments of President Parvanov – honestly – I am sick and tired of explaining. First of all, I am not in a position of dealing with sales, and I have not built those properties. It was assigned to some people on my team.
I have no sale contracts with Georgi Parvanov for any apartments, there are hundreds of ways to check that. Whether there is an apartment, resold by the original buyer, who had bought such properties from their respective original sellers – this is something I can’t really say, however I had never negotiated or signed contracts for the sale of apartments to Georgi Parvanov’s family.
And in this respect, I do believe that it is high time that all these speculations, initiated by one of your colleagues, who has been benefiting from these allegations for years, come to an end. In all my interviews in the past 10 years I have been asked that, as well as of the next one, we will discuss – the “Oil-for-Food“.
– How did the investigation of the “Oil-for-Food” end?
– There has never been an investigation! As for “Oil-for-Food“, if you make the effort to check that – there used to be a parliamentary Commission, we were interrogated – I and my son, all the people, involved in this process. Now, due to such questions, due to this interest, I am in a process of launching my own website, where I will publish the timeline and all documents, related to this process, which you insist on referring to as an “affair“.
It is no “affair“, this was a legitimate contract, following UN’s rules and with the official permission of the respective UN structure, responsible for the “Oil-for-Food“ Programme, where a quota was allocated, without any personal involvement on my part. You can easily check this story – all the details will be published, you will see the people involved, the signatories, the reasons for their signatures, the wire transfers – everything will be published on my website.
Please, believe me, the financial result of this entire operation would hardly be able to cover the costs for the paper, used to write about it. And let’s not even mention the media time, dedicated to this matter!
– With an increasing ease some politicians, such as Yordan Tsonev from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF ) for example, reveal their respective votes at the elections. Who did you voted for at the latest presidential elections?
– Mr. Tsonev is a politician and makes politics, through his announcement of his voting preferences. I am no politician. And as every other Bulgarian I am entitled to my own choice and I can only say that I have voted in accordance with my conscience.
– What is your opinion as a businessman, about the current political situation in Bulgaria?
– My opinion about the political situation … Look, I’ve had a very hard life, with many dramatic events, and nevertheless if I have managed to achieve something now, it is due to hard work and faith in my own strength. And the talent of the people around me.
To look at every situation – political, economic, financial – pessimistically… I think it may be time for us to change our glasses, so to speak and look at the things from another perspective?!
Currently, for the first our country holds the rotational Presidency of the Council of the European Union. You all see the international contacts and the presence of all possible major and minor European leaders here. You see the contacts, attitude, respect they show to our government. You see that, based on our Prime Minister’s, our Government’s and President’s foreign policy – our relations with Turkey, the interruption of the refugee wave, all this somehow remains unnoticed.
You see Government’s policy, which is magnificent with respect to the more serious focus on the economic, cultural, logistic development of the Western Balkans. All these matters… from my perspective, such a role, throughout Bulgaria’s transition period, such a position of our country on European and global level – I can’t remember anything like it.
So, I am not defending or cheering anybody, but these are the true facts and we should be glad and help.
– As an experience manager, what advice would you give to the current men in politics – Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, President Rumen Radev, the co-chairmen of the United Patriots – Simeonov, karakachanov and Siderov?
– Now let me jump to the next question – the relations between Prime minister Borisov and President Radev – of course you, as well as everybody know that if these two institutions work in harmony, especially during our European Presidency, the achievements would be much more significant, as well as the outcome, and we would be more attractive for investments.
People will start talking about Bulgaria, like they did in the beginning of its transition period (the early 1990s). Everyone who travelled much at that time know how people used to talk about Bulgarians, and now they view our country differently.
And now – as my well respected friend – Vezhdi Rashidov said in an interview – they are both respectable men and both have honestly and deservedly earned their General ranks, and you know what a general means – it means a leader.
I think that neither of them reached that rank through mere luck or accident, without fully understanding the role and responsibilities they assumed. And that is why I strongly hope and wish that they overcome their, probably purely human and maybe perceptive vision of some matters, and anyway they should be both guided by the same think – Bulgaria’s best interests, the good of the people, who has elected them.
So I do hope that soon we will see good cooperation and interaction between these two institutions, between these two respectful men, who, as I said, were elected by the Bulgarian people to represent it during a difficult and important time!
Interview of Zvezdomira Mastargarkova for pik.bg