Bulgarian businessman charged in Belene ‘embezzlement’ case

Bulgarian business executive Bogomil Manchev, chief executive of the Risk Engineering company, was on October 4 2013 charged with incitement to embezzlement in the Belene nuclear power station case.

Manchev was questioned by investigators and charged in the latest development after allegations emerged that huge fees had continued to be paid to consultants after the March 2012 decision by Bulgaria’s then-government to go no further with the long-stalled Belene nuclear project.

Manchev, who denies wrongdoing, was released on bail of one million leva (about 500 000 euro). The sum claimed to be involved in the alleged embezzlement is eight million leva.

Risk Engineering’s offices were searched two weeks ago in operation led by prosecutors and with the involvement of the State Agency for National Security and the Interior Ministry. At the time of the September 20 operation, Manchev was out of the country.

Prosecutors allege that Manchev incited the head of the National Electricity Company, NEK, to commit embezzlement. Given that the incumbent in that position has changed a number of times, it is not clear to which one prosecutors are referring.

In the September 20 raid, three people were briefly detained – two former chief executives of Bulgaria’s state-owned electricity utility NEK, Ivo Lefterov and Kroum Atanassov, as well as the regional director for Bulgaria at WorleyParsons, the firm retained by NEK as the engineering consultant, Sabin Sabinov. All three were released without being charged.

According to a prosecutor’s office statement on September 23, the two firms were paid about 950 000 euro a month for construction oversight of a project that was effectively shut down.

The prosecutors’ investigation was opened under article 203 of the Penal Code, which deals with large-scale embezzlement, and will also seek to determine whether there were any instances of mismanagement (article 219).

The former carries a possible prison sentence of between 10 and 20 years, alongside the full or partial forfeiture of assets, and the latter can carry a prison sentence of up to eight years if the court finds it particularly egregious, as well as a ban on holding certain state or public offices.




The Sofia Globe staff

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