‘Disneyland of corruption’: How a luxury villa sparked fury and threatens to collapse Bulgaria’s government

Sunday 27 September 2020 15:09 BST

When Bulgarian politician Hristo Ivanov pulled up in a motor boat at a Black Sea villa three months ago, he sparked a firestorm of protests about rampant corruption that threaten to bring down the country’s leader.

The villa belongs to Ahmed Dogan, the 66-year-old founder of an opposition party representing the country’s ethnic and religious minorities. He’s one of Bulgaria’s leading political and economic oligarchs, and numerous boat operators refused to ferry Ivanov – the US-educated leader of a small political party – and his team, out of fear of Dogan and his ties to those in power, including Kremlin-backed oligarchs and the centre-right government of Bulgaria’s prime minister, Boyko Borissov.

The gigantic villa on the Black Sea, outside the resort city of Burgas, had never been photographed before. And as Ivanov live-streamed his adventure, the splendour of Dogan’s estate came into view for all Bulgarians to see. The sprawling and elegant estate rises three stories. It includes a lookout tower that stretches even higher. Along the water, the property boasts its own yacht harbour and what appears to be a separate guest house.

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