Bulgarian property was a dream almost too good to be true for thousands of Brits during the recent overseas property boom. Unfortunately for some of them Bulgaria’s corruption turned it into a nightmare.
Meet Duncan Banbury, who is nearing the final stages of a Varna District Court case, which could see him lose his BGN 500,000 luxury villa in Bulgaria after a 3 year legal battle, on a claim that has already been proven to be criminal. Bemused? Welcome to the Bulgarian legal world.
Expert plumber and heating engineer Banbury, from St Albans near the UK capital London, came to Bulgaria with his partner in 2004, to move into their new luxury villa and enjoy a good retirement.
This dream has since turned into a drama involving many trips to different court rooms and mafia threats beaten in severity only by the even worse threat of losing his BGN 500,000 home.
It all started in 2007 when Banbury was informed that a civil case accusing him of not paying back a BGN 500 000 loan, had been started. Banbury had not been informed of the case when it started because his ex-lawyer allegedly failed to change his mailing address. Worse, the loan that Banbury is accused of failing to repay is to a man he says he has never met. The case was frozen and Banbury subsequently initiated a criminal investigation.
During the criminal investigation Banbury learned that, Zdravko Borislavov, claimed to have given a plastic bag containing BGN 500,000 at a meeting in the Golden Sands resort in late 2007, and that Banbury had failed to return the money. Banbury also learned that Borislavov had produced a promissory note to the civil court.
Banbury refuted these claims saying he had never met Borislavov and that his signature was a forgery.
The year-long criminal investigation, including 3 handwriting tests ruled that Banbury’s signature had been forged. And this is where the fun really starts, no investigation was made into who was behind the forgery and the criminal case was dropped.
Unfortunately Banbury’s woes did not end there. Shortly after this, Banbury found out that Borislavov — who he alleges is a front-man for the local mafia — had restarted the civil case instructing the court that he would accept the villa as compensation rather than the BGN 500 000 that he is allegedly owed. Borislavov had also come up with another BGN 20 000 from seemingly thin air to pay the new court taxes.
Banbury’s lawyer Nikolay Tachev, has questioned why the police did not fully investigate the case and blamed them for causing Duncan extra problems.
Adding to the problems is the fact that some of the evidence from the criminal investigation cannot be entered into the civil proceedings. As a result, the court’s ruling hangs in the balance. Banbury will soon find out whether corruption or justice will prevail, and whether he will lose his home in Bulgaria.
Banbury summarized his situation in one final call for Bulgarian justice;”Bad people pick on me, while I try to help others.”
Photo credits: Klearchos via Flickr