Bulgarian prosecutors raid offices as part of Belene investigation

Written by on September 20, 2013 in Bulgaria - No comments

Bulgarian prosecutors and law enforcement raided 17 properties in four Bulgarian cities and towns on September 20 as part of an investigation into alleged mismanagement of public funds related to the mothballed project to build a nuclear power plant at Belene on the Danube River.

Earlier this month, the prosecutor’s office said that Sofia City Prosecution was investigating the alleged embezzlement of 18 million euro. The statement came the same day that opposition politicians claimed consultancy firms hired for the Belene project had been paid even after Parliament officially froze the project in March 2012.

On September 20, the prosecutor’s office said that the joint operation by Sofia City Prosecution, the Interior Ministry and the State Agency for National Security (SANS) was linked to that investigation. In total, 17 offices and residential properties were searched in Sofia, Pernik, Kozloduy and Belene, the prosecution said in a statement.

“The immediate start of investigative actions was precipitated by the operative data, presented by SANS to prosecutors, concerning actions to destroy and hide documents related to the subject of the investigation,” the statement said.

The prosecutor’s office said that it would not disclose additional information so as not to impede the investigation. More details would be given after charges are pressed, the statement said.

Reports in Bulgarian media, however, said that at least some of the properties raided belonged to consultancy firm Risk Engineering, one of the subcontractors on the Belene project, and its owner Bogomil Manchev.

Manchev appeared to confirm, in comments reported by Bulgarian media, that his company’s offices had been targeted, but denied being under arrest. He was quoted as saying that he was out of the country and would appear in front of prosecutors when he returns, having been subpoenaed as a witness.

Some reports have also said that the offices of WorleyParsons, the firm hired by Bulgaria’s state electricity utility NEK to provide engineering consultancy services, had also been searched. WorleyParsons is the main consultant on Belene, but subcontracts some activities to Risk Engineering.

(Belene nuclear plant site, screengrab from Bulgarian National Television)

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