A Bulgarian Story – Petrol turns the screw

05/10/2008 by Christopher Buxton

There have been some shocking developments in this story and it is time to unmask the main players.

Step forward Mitko Subev the popular football boss and chief of Petrol. Mr Subev states that above him is only God and since he is the son of a general and a protege of Dobri Zhurov (Communist Minister of Defence), he feels he has little to fear even from the creator of the universe.

Mr Subev who co-owns half the building on Vuzrazhdane 4, wants to pull it down and replace it with a modern office block. He would like to have total control if not total ownership of the resulting building.

Milka Vulkanova has the misfortune to be co-owner of Vuzrazhdene 4. She is 84 and physically disabled. The daughter of a hard working self made man, she had to suffer considerable discrimination following 1944. All her father’s properties were confiscated and she was unable to work for many years. Thus she has a very little pension. Following restitution, her sole source of income came from rents from her half of Vuzrazhdene 4. She needs this money to pay for the full time 24 hour care she needs in a country where provision for the elderly is minimal.

Mr Subev has used his financial power to have the house on Vuzrazhdene 4 condemned by the council. An order has gone out ordering its demolition. This was a tortuous process during which his company deliberately did not communicate to Milka what they were up to.

Following an unannounced commission from the town hall that could find nothing wrong with the building, Mr Subev then paid 36,000 leva to buy his own experts. The resulting glossy report features emotive drawings of residents being crushed in a possible earthquake, almost managed to disguise the fact that even the expensive professors could not find any evidence that the building in its current state was unsafe. Burgas is not in an earthquake danger zone. Most of the older buildings in Burgas are not only in a much worse state of repair than Vuzrazhdene 4 but equally do not answer to the new building regulations. We await Mr Subev’s proposals for the demolition of three quarters of Burgas with interest.

In spite of her disability and relative poverty, Milka has been conscientious in her relationships with her tenants. Thus she has paid for repairs to the roof and last year spent a considerable sum underpinning the ground floor, repairing damage caused by a chronic leak from the floor owned by Petrol.

An unholy alliance

Mitko Subev has not talked to Milka ever since she dared to quibble over his first and “final” offer a year ago. However he has courted her tenants assiduously in the hopes that they will leave and so cut off her only source of income. He has used the computer graphics report to try to scare them out of the building.

He appears to have succeeded with only one of the tenants, the Austrian insurance firm, Grawe. Their representatives turned up at Milka’s judicial appeal against the demolition order, and appeared to be on very good terms with Petrol. The fear is that they will feel encouraged to sue Milka for lost income if they are “forced” to leave the building before their agreed five year term.

(Incidentally, despite their expressed fears, Grawe have not withdrawn their staff from the building.)

In this way Mitko Subev may hope to increase the financial threat hanging over Milka’s head – so she will agree to sell her half of the building for very little money. He has already sent a bill to Milka for half the expensive “expertise” he ordered up without consulting Milka beforehand.

A final appeal

Mitko, you know that in principle, Milka is not against your rebuilding plans. She understands economic realities, but your avoidance of meetings and your secretive plotting have done little to increase her confidence in you as a partner. This case is in serious danger of becoming notorious as an example of corporate bullying of a defenseless old woman. All she seeks is a fair settlement which guarantees her the appropriate support to which she is entitled. based on a continued income from the building plot her father bought all those years ago.

Don’t be a leather-face! You may go down in history as such – and even God might not forgive you.