CLIVE CASH TRAIL
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.