Bulgarian PM chief of staff indicted in embezzlement probe

Written by on May 8, 2014 in Bulgaria - Comments Off on Bulgarian PM chief of staff indicted in embezzlement probe

Bulgaria’s prosecutor’s office said on May 8 that it has pressed formal charges against Maria Divizieva, chief of staff to Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski, in an investigation into alleged embezzlement of EU funds.

As part of the same investigation, two senior judges were charged on April 28 with malfeasance in office (for allegedly bypassing public procurement regulations), embezzlement and document fraud.

Sofia Court of Appeals chairperson Vesselin Pengezov and Petko Petkov, head of the Military Court of Appeals, are alleged to have embezzled funds from a project to develop an integrated IT system for the Bulgarian military courts, carried out in 2008/09 and funded under European Union’s operational programme for administrative capacity.

(The prosecutor’s office did not specify the exact amounts when it pressed charges on April 28, but media reports at the time put the figure at an estimated 181 000 leva.)

Divizieva, who was deputy public administration minister at the time and ex officio in charge of the EU operational programme for administrative capacity, is accused of assisting Pengezov and Petkov with advice how to perpetrate document fraud. She also, allegedly, promised to render additional assistance and remove any further obstacles, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

Speaking to reporters after being presented with the bill of indictment, Divizieva denied the charges, saying that she committed no crime and carried out her duties in accordance with the Bulgarian law.

She said that she had spoken to Oresharski concerning the charges, but did not intend to resign at this time. Reports in Bulgarian media, however, said that she may yet be suspended if the State Agency for National Security (SANS) decided to withdraw her clearance to access classified data – which would make it impossible for her to carry out her duties.

Oresharski himself repeated, on May 8, his earlier stance on the issue, saying that the charges were not related in any way to Divizieva’s duties as chief of his staff.

In recent days, Divizieva also received the support of socialist leader Sergei Stanishev – in whose government Divizieva was deputy minister – who described her as a workaholic and “a big compliment to the Oresharski cabinet”.

Former public administration minister Nikolai Vassilev also threw his support behind Divizieva, saying in an interview with mass-circulation daily 24 Chassa on May 7 that Divizieva was “categorically not one of those people that might become involved in any malfeasance.” He said that the EU operational programme for administrative capacity in Bulgaria was one of the most successful in terms of utilisation of structural funds in the entire EU at the time that Divizieva oversaw it.

(Photo: Jason Morisson/sxc.hu)

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