A sports betting operator will not have to pay the hundreds of millions of dollars the Government had demanded due to a surprising decision from a Bulgarian court. The founder of the Eurofootball company, the multimillionaire businessman Vasil Bozhkov, is also in the clear, even though the court ruling does not necessarily mean that the entrepreneur will return to Bulgaria.
Earlier this week, the Bulgarian Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) sided with Mr. Bozhkov by ruling against the country’s gambling regulator which had tried to demand a total of BGN239 million from Eurofootball. The court’s decision is final, which means it cannot be appealed by the Government or the country’s gambling regulatory body.
This has been the largest tax case filed by a former company of the Bulgarian multimillionaire entrepreneur Vasil Bozhkov. Now that the Government’s claims failed in court, none of the money that the competent authorities sought from his Eurofootball business will be received by the country.
The case has been going on for years. In 2021, a lower court ruled that the sports betting company had to pay up the amount sought by the Bulgarian authorities. At the time, it ordered Eurofootball to pay outstanding fees worth BGN261 million and interest worth BGN67.7 million, but Mr. Bozhkov appealed the decision.
The State Gambling Commission (SGC) previously explained that the order resulted from the failure of Eurofootball to pay its share of gambling taxes for five years. However, at the time when the court announced its decision, a series of questionable practices was unveiled and eventually forced it to stall. At a later stage of the lawsuit, a subsequent court determined that the law was applied correctly by neither the Gambling Commission nor the country’s Ministry of Finance. Also, it was reiterated that four finance ministers served during the period in question but none of them intervened.
Supreme Administrative Court Finds the Payment Order Null and Void
Eventually, the case made its way to the Supreme Administrative Court which decided it was high time to bring the lawsuit to a close. The court took all the facts and pieces of evidence into consideration and determined that the initial order for the payment was issued from a body that never had the legal authority to do so.
At the time, Eurofootball received an order to make the due payment from the chairman of the State Gambling Commission but he had no authority to do so. According to the SAC, the gambling regulator is only an administrative body, which is why it had no authority to force a person or a business entity to make a settlement for their financial claims with the state.
The SAC specifies that its ruling does not rule on the amount due by Eurofootball but at the same time cancels the order as initially void. This basically means that the SGC chairman’s order does not trigger any action and cannot serve as a basis for the collection of any obligations. If a new order were issued, most of the due payment would be time-barred.
This is not the only good news for Mr. Bozhkov. Another company of the Bulgarian mogul could also find relief soon. The same lower court that previously ruled in favor of the State Gambling Commission’s order ruled that New Games, a private lottery company that went bankrupt, has to pay a little over BGN223 million in unpaid fees. The order for the tax payment, however, was once again issued by the gambling regulator’s chairman, which could mean the order could be null and void, too.