Bulgaria's Notorious SAPARD Fraud Case Misfires Again
The notorious case for the embezzlement of EUR 7.5 M under the EU's SAPARD program has misfired for a second time at Bulgaria's Specialized Criminal Court.
On January 23, the trial was blocked by flawed summoning of the main defendant, businessman Mario Nikolov, and his lawyer, Menko Menkov.
During Wednesday's sitting of the Specialized Criminal Court, it turned out that two other defendants, Anna Hadzhiivanova and Lazarina Georgieva, had not received their copies of the indictment, according to reports of the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency (BTA).
The two were handed the documents in the court room on Wednesday, in breach of the legal requirement that the defendants be provided seven days to acquaint themselves with the charges they face.
The case, which has been closely monitored by the European Commission and the EU anti-fraud office OLAF, has been rescheduled for March 10.
At the start of the investigation, in 2007, the prosecuting authority divided the case in two – one for document fraud which resulted in embezzling BGN 7.5 M under the EU's Sapard (Special accession programme for agriculture and rural development), and the other one for money laundering. The step has been interpreted as a crucial mistake which caused both trials to collapse.
The court of first instance, the Sofia City Court, declared Nikolov guilty, while his accomplice, Lyudmil Stoykov was acquitted. The Sofia Appellate Court subsequently revoked Nikolov's sentence and confirmed the acquittal.
In November 2013, acting Chief Prosecutor Boyko Naydenov announced that Stoycho Nenkov, prosecutor at the Sofia Appellate Prosecutor's Office, had revoked the protest of the acquittal of Nikolov and Stoykov under the money laundering case, thereby making their acquittal final.
Naydenov subsequently asked the Supreme Court of Cassation (VKS) to relaunch the money laundering case and to merge it with the embezzlement proceedings.
The prosecuting authority rejected the proposal.
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