Sunday Herald Sun - - News -

THE man who was given $7.6 mil­lion of Queens­land Nickel’s money, Clive Palmer’s fa­ther-in-law, Alexan­der Sokolov, is liv­ing a dis­creet and priv­i­leged life in Bul­garia, keep­ing his wealth hid­den.

The fa­ther of Mr Palmer’s wife, Anna, has spent the past month cruis­ing the Mediter­ranean with Mr Palmer and other fam­ily mem­bers.

This is as liq­uida­tors in Aus­tralia try to claw back $106 mil­lion re­moved from Queens­land Nickel’s cof­fers be­fore it went bust, leav­ing 800 work­ers job­less.

A Sun­day Her­ald Sun in­ves­ti­ga­tion has re­vealed Mr Sokolov and his wife, Anna’s mother, Stiliyana Nikolcheva Sokolov, own at least two prop­er­ties in their na­tive Bul­garia and travel fre­quently to Aus­tralia.

Mrs Sokolov also joined the fam­ily cruise aboard the MS Wes­ter­dam.

Their son, Anna’s brother Ge­orgi, also has a busi­ness reg­is­tered in Bul­garia, although it no longer trades.

Mr Sokolov se­nior was given the huge sum on Novem­ber 29, 2012, the day Mr Palmer al­legedly trans-

The French, Qatari and Dutch em­bassies are on the same block, dot­ted with small shops sell­ing art, fash­ion, gourmet food and wine. The pair live on the sec­ond floor and have re­cently un­der­taken a ma­jor ren­o­va­tion of their apart­ment.

Un­like many res­i­dents in Bul­garia, they do not have their name on their door­bell.

Neigh­bours, who know Mr Sokolov by the nick­name of “Sasha’’, con­firmed they lived there.

The Sun­day Her­ald Sun showed pho­to­graphs of both Mr Palmer and Mr Mensink to neigh­bours and those work­ing in nearby shops but no one recog­nised the pair.

The Sokolovs also own an apart­ment in the work­ing­class city of Mon­tana, about two hours’ drive from Sofia in the north of the coun­try near the bor­der with Ser­bia and Ro­ma­nia.

That apart­ment is in a mod­est block out­side the town cen­tre.

Neigh­bours in that block con­firmed they were reg­u­lar vis­i­tors, and de­scribed them as “the Aus­tralians’’, say­ing they were of­ten vis­it­ing daugh­ter in Aus­tralia.

The neigh­bours said Mrs Sokolov also had prop­erty in Vin­ishte, a grape-grow­ing vil­lage north of Mon­tana in the foothills of the Balkan Moun­tains.

Records show that Ge­orgi, who an­gli­cised his name to Ge­orge when he moved to Aus­tralia sev­eral years ago, still has a pho­tog­ra­phy busi­ness reg­is­tered in Mon­tana. It used to trade as a stu­dio spe­cial­is­ing in glam­our pho­tog­ra­phy.

The Sun­day Her­ald vis­ited the build­ing their Sun but found no trace of a stu­dio.

Res­i­dents at an up­mar­ket house with a gar­den that he had used for some of the shoots said he had not been there for sev­eral years.

Ge­orge Sokolov worked as di­rec­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy for the 2013 Palmer United Party fed­eral cam­paign, and stood un­suc­cess­fully as a can­di­date for the Queens­land seat of Broad­wa­ter in the 2015 state elec­tion.

He is not named in the le­gal ac­tion and is not be­ing pur­sued by liq­uida­tors.

In Fe­bru­ary, Mr Palmer told the Fed­eral Court in Bris­bane, prob­ing the fi­nances of the by-then col­lapsed Queens­land Nickel, that he might have given Mr Sokolov the money be­cause of “love and af­fec­tion for him’’, but could not be sure.

He said Mr Sokolov was an en­gi­neer whose work at Queens­land Nickel had saved the busi­ness $40 mil­lion a year and “eight mil­lion would have been worth his con­tri­bu­tion”. Mr Mensink, Mr Palmer’s nephew, who has

not been seen for al­most a year and who has ig­nored two war­rants to ap­pear in court, was the sole di­rec­tor of Queens­land Nickel when it col­lapsed. He made a se­cret visit to Bul­garia in Fe­bru­ary.

Mr Palmer told the Fed­eral Court Mr Sokolov had run into Mr Mensink “co­in­ci­den­tally’’ in Sofia. He said he had given Mr Sokolov $60,000 to give to Mr Mensink in en­ti­tle­ments he was owed, but his fa­ther-in-law had passed on only $10,000.

Mr Palmer first met his much younger wife when she mar­ried his friend, An­drew Topalov, in Aus­tralia. Mr Palmer walked her down the aisle to wed Mr Topalov, as her par­ents could not at­tend the wed­ding.

Many years later, Mr Palmer’s first wife, Sue, and Mr Topalov both died from long ill­nesses, and Mr Palmer and the then Mrs Topalov be­came close through their shared grief, even­tu­ally mar­ry­ing in 2007.

Mr Palmer and Mr Sokolov did not re­spond to writ­ten ques­tions.

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