Development: More Arrested for Illegal Import of Waste from Italy
Deputy Environment Minister Krassimir Zhivkov and the businessmen Bobokovi brothers on May 28 were detained for 24 hours.
The specialised prosecutor's office is investigating alleged involvement in an organized crime group that has mismanaged waste, including hazardous materials. The former head of the environment inspection in Pleven was also alleged to have taken part in the scheme.
At the beginning of the year, a large amount of unseparated waste imported from Italy was found in Pleven.
A total of six people have been detained so far. The prosecutor's office announced that it is yet to be decided who will be charged and what charges will be brought.
The prosecutor's office is pursuing two lines of inquiry related to mismanagement of waste. One is for illegal import of waste from Italy, which is not separated, which makes it not waste but garbage. The waste was imported by companies that do not have the necessary capacity to process or incinerate it, something that is not allowed.
According to the evidence gathered by the prosecutor's office, it was Krassimir Zhivkov who pressured his subordinates, mostly heads of regional environment inspectorates to give permits to companies that did not meet the requirements to import such waste. Those who did not give permits, according to the prosecution, were fired.
The second line of investigation is into criminal mismanagement of hazardous waste, in which Bobokovi brothers were allegedly involved. They own a battery processing plant in Montana and a company that produces motor oils. All facilities where hazardous waste can be recovered, but this did not happen, or if it did, it was fictitious.
The operation against the alleged group began at 06.00 am in the morning of May 28, when the investigators woke up the Deputy Environment Minister, Krasimir Zhivkov and he was taken to his office in the ministry where the investigators carried out a search in his presence. Searches and seizures were conducted at offices and addresses in Sofia, Pravets, Pleven, Plovdiv Botevgrad, Montana, Smolyan and villages in the Kyustendil municipality.
The prosecutor’s office said that the Deputy Environment Minister was one of six people taken into 24-hour custody for involvement in alleged organised crime group related to the import of hazardous waste to Bulgaria, mainly from Italy.
Siyka Mileva, spokesperson for the Chief Prosecutor said that Zhivkov had been pressuring subordinates to issue permits for the import of waste from Italy to companies that do not meet the legal requirements and to refuse permits to companies that do. Ministry staff who refused to co-operate either were dismissed or forced out of their jobs, she added.
This way, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of unseparated waste were imported into our country from Italy, which were not suitable for processing, but were hazardous for incineration. The second line of investigation is the processing and disposal of hazardous waste. The companies, whose production generates such, are obliged within one year to export them or hand them over to another Bulgarian company, which can process or utilize them.
According to the evidence gathered in the pre-trial proceedings, the Deputy Minister of Environment and Water refused to issue such notifications and in this way, he forced producers to hand over the waste to certain companies that he controlled, which have permits for further processing in Bulgaria. A commercial company that has a recycling plant in Montana for processing batteries has also benefited from this scheme, she explained.
During searches of the offices of Plamen and Atanas Bobokovi brothers in Montana and Rousse, evidence was gathered that only part of the hazardous waste was exported to Germany.
Siyka Mileva added that the scheme involved falsifying processing of waste by sending it to companies whose activities were fictitious, controlled by him, thus saving the fees and transport costs of sending the hazardous waste to Germany where there was capacity to process it without endangering the environment. This generated huge profits and payment of large amounts of tax was avoided.
According to BNT sources, Bobokovi brothers were detained for 24 hours and will most likely be charged with participation in an organized crime group and tax crimes./BNT
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