Financial and business news from Bulgaria

Denis Ershov's successors want $840 million from Bulgaria

The successors of the deceased Lithuanian businessman Denis Ershov are demanding $840m from Bulgaria. They sent a notary invitation to the finance ministry to pay them as compensation for the expropriation of the assets of the company Petrol. If their request was not granted, Ershov's successors would file a case in the arbitration court in Washington with the World Bank.
According to Ershov's successors, they were victims of illegal actions by the Varna district court, the Registry Agency and the Financial Supervision Commission. Because of this, Ershov and his heirs were deprived of property. Ershov's direct successors are his wife Elena and their daughter Vasilisa. Ershova also has a son Arthur, but he is from another man and it is not clear whether he is included in the claims against the Bulgarian state.

Lawyer Ivaylo Dermendjiev, who is one of the lawyers on the case, told Mediapool that an application to the World Bank arbitration for consideration of the case is not yet, analysis is being made.

The Finance Ministry confirmed in front of “24 Hours” that they received the letter from Ershov's successors. Currently, the documents are being reviewed by lawyers to assess what action should be taken.

Lawyers who are specialists in an arbitration case argue that the probability of reaching a claim is small as a fee is required. In the case of claims of $840 million, this means paying several million fees, and Ershov's successors hardly have such a large sum.

Currently Petrol, which is a public company and its shares are traded on the stock exchange, is controlled by several companies that contact businessman Grisha Ganchev, who is involved in the management of the company.

Before that, however, there were several shifts of ownership, and in 2011 the company found itself at the centre of a noisy scandal between the owners. Back then, businessman Mitko Sabev owned 47.5% of Petrol, and Denis Ershov and Alexander Melnik had a total of 52.5%. The two foreigners and Sabev fought a fierce battle for control of the company and accused each other of embezzlement. Denis Ershov even sent a signal to the porcuration, claiming that Sabev turned out to be a crook. In response, Sabev stated that his partner has health problems that prevent him from making a real judgment.

In 2013 Sabev's companies received loans from CCB for nearly 100 million euros. The liabilities were never repaid, but under the debt-to-property scheme at the beginning of 2014. Petrol was acquired by companies close to the then majority owner of CCB Tsvetan Vasilev.

In September 2014, when CCB is already closed, Grisha Ganchev entered the office of Petrol and the company's headquarters was moved from Sofia to Lovech - Ganchev's hometown.

In 2015, CCB unions filed a claim against Petrol for the recovery of over BGN 234 million. Some of the claims have been rejected by the various courts. Lawyers commented that the claims of Ershov's successors have no bearing on CCB and trade unions because they affect a period before the bank's bankruptcy occurred.