As previously reported by The Balkan, authorities in Sofia have launched a widescale investigation into the cryptocurrency platform Nexo, which also had ties to FTX and disgraced crypto mogul Sam Bankman-Fried.
New details of the investigation emerged on Friday. The spokesperson for the Sofia Prosecutor’s Office, Siika Mileva, told reporters, “The main organizers and activities are in Bulgaria. 300 people are working on this operation, 35 investigators, employees of the National Security Service, the Gendarmerie, and the Sofia Police. The pre-trial proceedings are under the supervision of the Sofia City Prosecutor's Office.”
Bulgarian authorities believe the company also has ties to notorious fraudster Ruja Ignatova and her OneCoin pyramid scheme. Ignatova, a Bulgarian woman known as the “Queen of Cryptocurrencies” is currently on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list. She is also wanted by Europol and Interpol.
Four people have been charged as defendants in the case focusing on the activities of the Nexo crypto platform, but Deputy Prosecutor General Borislav Sarafov declined to name them. He did say that over 20 witnesses have been questioned in the probe and that some have expressed fears for their safety and will be included in a witness protection program.
The managers of the company are known to be: Georgi Shulev, son of the former Deputy Prime Minister Lidiya Shuleva; Antoni Trenchev – co-founder and director of several Nexo companies, and a former member of parliament from the DBG, Reform Bloc; Kosta Kantchev – director of Nexo Bank; Kalin Metodiev – co-founder and financial director of Nexo; and Sokol Yankov.
The company that Sokol Yankov currently manages said that Yankov left Nexo in 2019 and has had nothing to do with the investigated group of companies since then. Georgi Shulev’s office stated told Bulgarian National Television that while he participated in the founding of Nexo in 2018, he left the Nexo group of companies the following year and is currently suing the co-founders in Great Britain. Bulgarian National Television reports that Shulev is currently being questioned as a witness.
The former member of parliament from the Bulgarian political formation “Reform Bloc,” Antoni Trenchev, and his partner in Nexo, Kosta Kantchev, both fled to Dubai already in the fall of last year according to Bulgarian National Television reported. This came after allegations of large-scale fraud were brought against Nexo by U.S. prosecutors and coincided with the collapse of FTX.
The two are accused running a criminal enterprise involved in money laundering, tax crimes, computer fraud, and unlicensed banking. Svetoslav Vassilev, head of the cybercrimes divion of the National Investigative Service, said that Bulgarian prosecutors have also determined that some of Nexo’s transactions were directed to Mahmoud Mohammed Mahmoud Ayesh, a Palestinian accused by Israeli authorities of financing the Palestinian terrorist organization Hamas.