Bulgarian ex-EconMin Indicted over Abandoned Belene Nuclear Plant

Business » ENERGY | October 19, 2016, Wednesday // 11:24
Bulgaria: Bulgarian ex-EconMin Indicted over Abandoned Belene Nuclear Plant Bulgarian Chief Prosecutor's Spokesperson, Rumyana Ardaudova, has urged "patience", warning of new upcoming action over Belene nuclear power plant. File photo

Petar Dimitrov, a former Bulgarian Minister of Economy and Energy, has been indicted over the sale of old equipment made for the ditched Belene plant to the Russian company involved in the project.

Dimitrov, now facing charges of abeyance has been placed under a recognizance order and is barred from leaving the country. The prosecuting authorities maintain he turned a blind eye on an unfavourable deal contracted by the state-owned National Electricity Company (NEK)'s executives Lyubomir Velkov and Mardik Papazyan, both of them being defendants indicted in the Belene case on Monday.

He took up the office in 2007 and retained it until the government's term ended in 2009.

Daily 24 Chasa reports he was summoned to the Sofia City Prosecutor's Office on Wednesday and, asked by a reporter why he had been invited, replied: "I don't know, I came to take part in the [presidential] election campaign."

The move follows the indictment of Velkov and Papazyan, who allegedly signed an unfavourable contract to sell old equipment for Belene nuclear power plant (NPP) to Russian company Atomstroyexport (earlier, it had been reported the contract was about buying equipment from Atomstroyexport). The reactor sold to Atomstroyexport - allegedly incurring EUR 77 M in losses to NEK, was later installed into the Kaliningrad NPP project.

On Tuesday, officials at three state energy enterprises - all of them having been ministers in the 2005-2009 cabinet - were replaced by the Energy Minister. GERB MP and former Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev (now heading Parliament's energy committee) explained the reshuffle of two of them, former economy minister Rumen Ovcharov and his successor under the same government, the already indicted Petar Dimitrov (who took over in 2007) was triggered by the indictment.

"[Two of them] were ministers at the time the NEK executives indicted by the prosecution [were in office]," Focus News Agency quotes him as saying. The third one, Asen Gagauzov, who was Regional Development Minister and was on the board of ICGB AD, the company building Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB), was removed for the sake of "optimization", Dobrev has added.

But Ovcharov told 24 Chasa the move was "purely political", in view of the forthcoming presidential election on November 06.

Belene NPP was abandoned by Boyko Borisov's previous government. Sofia is now looking into options to build the plant through a privatization procedure while at the same time smoothing out details with Moscow on the payment of hundreds of millions of EUR that Bulgaria owes to Atomstroyexport under an arbitration ruling.

Bulgarian prosecuting authorities are expected to file new indictments over the selling of old equipment for Belene NPP, the public radio has reported.

Rumyana Arnaudova, Spokesperson for the Chief Prosecutor, has told the broadcaster new charges will include "abuse of office", but has stopped short of mentioning names.

"We will make the investigation more difficult if we hand out more information at this stage," Arnaudova has added, urging "patience".

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Tags: Rumyana Arnaudova, Atomstroyexport, Belene, Belene NPP

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