Balkan Airlines ex-CEOs convicted in absentia
Three former chief executives of Bulgaria's Balkan Airlines, a Briton and two Israelis, were Friday convicted in absentia over the company's privatisation and bankruptcy in 2001, the prosecution said.
Andrew Gray and Israelis Yehim Mar and Zvi Frank-Haim of Israeli Zeevi Holdings, which bought Balkan in 1999, wired to the Netherlands $37.9 million without declaring the money to the central bank, it said.
A Sofia court found them guilty on Friday of having broken Bulgaria's currency transfer laws.
Gray was handed a suspended three-year sentence and Mar and Frank-Haim were given four years each, the prosecution said.
The three men were however acquitted on the principal count against them -- breach of trust and suspected "intentional bankruptcy" of Balkan in 2001, it added.
The prosecution said it would appeal.
Zeevi Holdings bought 75 percent in Bulgaria's debt-ridden national carrier Balkan in June 1999 for $150,000 (163,000 euros), and pledged to invest another $100 million in the airline over five years.
Instead, Balkan nosedived into bankruptcy amid legal disputes between its new owners and the government that also saw Zeevi Holdings sell off a great part of its planes and other assets.
The government claimed back the company and renamed it Bulgaria Air in 2002 before selling it to a Bulgarian firm.
© 2011 AFP