The European Prosecution is Investigating abuses related to Railway Projects in Bulgaria

Politics | August 11, 2023, Friday // 17:00
Bulgaria: The European Prosecution is Investigating abuses related to Railway Projects in Bulgaria @Pixabay

The European Prosecutor's Office is investigating possible abuses in two projects for the renovation of the Bulgarian railways for over 241 million euros, financed by EU programs.

The representation of the European Prosecutor's Office in Sofia carried out searches yesterday at various addresses as part of the investigation. This was announced by the headquarters of the European Prosecutor's Office in Luxembourg.

More than 100 police officers and SANS agents participated in the raids. They were carried out at 28 addresses in the regions of Sofia, Burgas, Varna, Stara Zagora, Smolyan and Pazardzhik.

The European Public Prosecutor's Office has two projects for the renewal of railway infrastructure in its sights.

The first is for a section between the towns of Kostenets and Septemvri on the line Sofia - Plovdiv, financed with funds from the European Executive Agency for Climate, Infrastructure and the Environment, worth over 130 million euros.

The second concerns the modernization of the railway section between Orizovo and Mihailovo - part of the second phase of the repair of the railway infrastructure in the direction Plovdiv - Burgas, financed by the Cohesion Fund under the Operational Program "Transport and Transport Infrastructure" with funds for over 111 million euros.

The beneficiary of the two projects is the Bulgarian National Railway Infrastructure Company, and the two contracts were awarded to two private companies with international participation, points out the European Public Prosecutor's Office.

Construction work on both railway sections continues, but several payments have already been made to the contractors by the beneficiary.

The investigation found facts that could constitute criminal offences, including misuse of European funds and money laundering. It is suspected that the contractors, in just a short period of time, made fictitious money transfers to a series of shell companies, which subsequently led to the withdrawal of over 2.5 million euros (5 million leva) in cash from individuals with criminal records, noted the press release from Luxembourg.

During yesterday's searches, carried out in the homes of the suspects and in the premises of the investigated companies, two persons were arrested. In addition, public representatives from the National Railway Infrastructure Company will be questioned in connection with the payment of European funds.

The investigation is ongoing to determine the nature and extent of the alleged criminal activity.

All affected persons are considered innocent until proven otherwise in the competent Bulgarian courts, notes the press release of the European Public Prosecutor's Office.

The Office of the European Chief Prosecutor is an independent public service of the European Union. It is responsible for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to justice perpetrators of crimes against the EU's financial interests.

The Minister of Transport: We support the European Public Prosecutor's Office's investigation into violations in railway projects

The Ministry of Transport and Communications is supporting the investigation by the European Public Prosecutor's Office into violations in two rail infrastructure modernization projects.

A revision of the way in which public funds are spent in the structures of the Ministry was one of the first steps that Minister Georgi Gvozdeikov took upon taking office, announced the Ministry.

"I immediately ordered the National Railway Infrastructure Company to fully cooperate with the prosecutor's office and I hope that it will reach the end of its investigation," commented Minister Gvozdeikov.

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