Bulgarian Consultant's Interrogation over 'Energy Fraud' on Hold
The interrogation of Bulgarian energy consultant, Bogomil Manchev, scheduled for Wednesday, has been postponed pending the examination of seized documents from his office.
The information was reported by the spokesperson of the Sofia City Prosecutor's Office, Zornitsa Taskova.
Manchev was set to give explanations and an account in connection with the probe for large-scale embezzlement and premeditated mismanagement in the project to build a second Nuclear Power Plant, NPP, in the Bulgarian Danube town of Belene.
He is the CEO of Bulgaria's Risk Engineering consulting company and has been summoned earlier through his wife.
Last Friday, Risk Engineering's offices were searched in a special police operation against suspected fraud in the energy sector. Manchev's company is believed to have embezzled EUR millions in consultancy deals for the Belene project, despite the fact that its construction was stopped in March of 2012.
The operation took place in the capital Sofia, including in the offices of Risk Engineering, the western city of Pernik, and the Danube towns of Kozloduy and Belene.
Kozloduy is the site of Bulgaria's only Nuclear Power Plant, NPP, while there is a debated project to build a second, Russian-sponsored one in Belene.
The special police operation came on the heels of Sofia City Prosecutor's Office launching on August 9 a pre-trial procedure for large-scale embezzlement and mismanagement. The main lead in the investigation are payments from NEK for consulting services for the Belene NPP project, made after the previous government of the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, decided to freeze it in March 2012.
Immediately after the news made headlines, rumors started circulating that Manchev has been arrested. His office, however, informed that he is currently abroad, has been notified about the raid and had promised to return to Bulgaria to cooperate with the investigation. Manchev has also ordered all his employees to help the authorities.
Speaking on the private TV station Nova Monday morning, Manchev clarified that the contract signed between Risk Engineering and NEK for Belene in 2005 is still active today, despite the halting of the project.
He added that there are a number of private and political interests hidden behind this operation, such as demonstrating to those protesting against the government that the state is committed to fight corruption.
As for private interests, Manchev suggested a certain businessman who is interested in taking over his positions, but did not reveal a name.
On Monday, Krum Atanasov and Ivo Lefterov, former CEOs of Bulgaria's National Electric Company, NEK, together with Sabin Sabinov, CEO of Worley Parsons in Bulgaria, who were all arrested during the special police operation, were released.
Worley Parsons is the company that was hired by NEK for the consultancy of the Belene project. Risk Engineering is a subcontractor for the consultancy.
Manchev has also stressed that the said contract was not between Risk Engineering and NEK and his company received payments as Worley Parsons subcontractor.
Bogomil Manchev was one of the three individuals mentioned as key players in Bulgaria's so-called "energy mafia" in a diplomatic cable of the US embassy in Sofia, dated December 20, 2006, revealed on WikiLeaks and provided to the project for investigative journalism www.bivol.bg.
The cable brought out new details about corruption and lack of transparency in Bulgaria's energy sector.
The full text of the cable can be found HERE.
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