Björgólfur in Bulgaria

The mafia connection stories keep on surfacing. After Björgólfur Thor and Björgólfur Guðmundsson came back to Iceland and invested in companies and started an empire, a global empire that made Björgólfur Thor the 249th richest man in the world according to Forbes magazine in 2007. His ventures into Bulgaria are interesting.

It is a well known fact that the Russian mafia rules Bulgaria, and they have a “good connection” with the St. Petersburg criminal gangs. Expensive and fancy cars are left alone in the Bulgarian streets if they have the right insurance company sticker in the window because the mafia owns the insurance company. If the small time street criminals break into the cars or steal them, the mafia finds them and “takes care of them”. Many of those cars are stolen from Germany and other places in Europe, and end up in eastern Europe, many in Bulgaria.

Björgólfur Thor ventured into business in Bulgaria in 1999 and soon became a large name there, where he bought two companies that are of most significance. Balkanpharma, a large drugs manufacturing company. His Icelandic company Pharmaco bought the Bulgarian company in 1999 and that became part of the Actavis drug manufacturing conglomerate. In December 2005 Björgólfur Thor was named by the Bulgarian National Radio, as the investor of the year, and he was at that time the largest foreign investor in Bulgaria.

Balkanpharma was according to our sources a massive “money laundering machine” for the Russian mafia. That was known by those who wanted to know, and to those who saw the situation in Bulgaria. Björgólfur was known to go out in Bulgaria where he often had four Russian bodyguards with him. Why does a business man has to have four Russian bodyguards with him?

Sources say that Balkanpharma was the perfect way to launder money for the Russians and it even had the opportunity to manufacture any drug on the market, and the means to order almost any ingredient others had no way of obtaining. To speculate; the distribution system was in place, including vehicles, logistics and freight shipping (Eimskip cargo shipping company for example), if one wanted go into illegal things. No evidence of this, but given the circumstances, one cant help but wander.

According to Sofia News Agency Björgólfur in 2006 had investments in Bulgaria for 100 billion ISK. His company Novator owned 34% in EI Bank, the eight largest bank in Bulgaria. He also was the major shareholder (65%) in the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company (BTC). Viva Ventures, an investment company owned by Björgólfur sent two representatives when he left as BTC chairman of the board. They where Jeremy Thompson the former CEO of Cable % Wireless (in the UK) and Bruce McInroy who has worked for the British Telecom (BT)

Björgólfur later sold his share in BTC and made a hefty profit.

According to Sigrún Daviðsdóttir (the great RUV journalist), in 2006, the German newspaper Die Welt published an article about the EU application by Bulgaria and talked about the huge impact the massive corruption in Bulgaria might have on the application. The article used Björgólfur and his ventures in Bulgaria as an example of this corruption. Die Welt mentioned the 65% takeover of the BTC as an example of this corruption and mentioned then that Björgólfur Thor was believed to be (according to their sources) the frontman for the Russian mafia. The corruption had the affect on the govenment and the business system that foreign parties had a very difficult time to get in and do any investing.

Björgólfur on the other hand came there in 1999 and soon rose to very high stature there. And the Russian mafia connections seem to have paved his way to the top there.

Sigrún Davíðsdóttir also reports in her February 2009 article that it is obvious that the ownership of companies connected to Björgólfur Thor is much bigger and much more complex than those of other business men responsible for the Icelandic economic crash. The amounts of money involved are considerably higher there as well.

Here is a good article about Björgólfur Thor

Advertisements

About this entry