March 17, 2016 / 4:35 PM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-Bulgaria files $1.3 bln lawsuit against Corpbank's main shareholder

(Adds details, background)

SOFIA, March 17 (Reuters) - Bulgaria filed a 2.2 billion leva ($1.3 bln) lawsuit against Tsvetan Vassilev, the main shareholder in insolvent Corpbank, accusing him of using bank funds to acquire property and other assets, that led to a subsequent liquidity crisis at the bank.

Corporate Commercial Bank was hit by a run on deposits in 2014 and collapsed later that year, triggering Bulgaria’s biggest banking crisis since the 1990s. The country’s central bank seized control of the bank, the country’s fourth biggest, and shut it down.

Plamen Georgiev, the head of the Commission for Illegal Assets Forfeiture (CIAF), said on Thursday the lawsuit - the largest ever pursued by the commission - had been filed with the Sofia City Court.

Vassilev has been living in Serbia and Bulgarian authorities have been trying for 18 months to secure his extradition to face charges of embezzlement.

Neither Vassilev nor his lawyers could be contacted for comment on Thursday. He has previously denied any wrongdoing in regards to his dealings with Corpbank.

The list of assets that would be seized if the claim is approved includes properties in Bulgaria and Switzerland, money held in bank accounts, as well as Vassilev’s paintings and coins collection.

Vassilev, who blames the run on deposits at Corpbank on a plot hatched by his competitors, surrendered to Serbian police in September 2014. He lives freely in Serbia but authorities took his passport away and ordered him to report daily to a police station.

Bulgarian authorities have grown increasingly frustrated about their inability to extradite Vassilev.

In December, courts in Bulgaria and Switzerland froze more than 600 million levs in assets belonging to Vassilev. (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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