Bulgarian prosecutors seek to lift former energy minister’s immunity in Belene probe

Bulgaria’s Prosecutor-General Sotir Tsatsarov has submitted a formal request to the National Assembly to lift the immunity from prosecution of GERB MP Delyan Dobrev to face charges of intentional mismanagement, in connection with the ongoing investigation into suspected irregularities surrounding the now-frozen Belene nuclear power plant project.

Dobrev, who is currently head of Parliament’s energy committee, was economy and energy minister in the previous GERB administration, from March 2012 until March 2013.

According to the prosecutor’s office statement, Dobrev failed to issue the order to terminate the contract with Belene engineering consultant Worley Parsons, which resulted in damages to the Bulgarian state of 4.56 million euro. Bulgaria’s Cabinet decided to shelve the Belene project on March 28 2012, a decision ratified a day later by the National Assembly.

Despite the Government and Parliament decisions, the contract with Worley Parsons was never cancelled, a “circumstance that was known to minister Delyan Dobrev, who, despite his rights and duties, made no action” to implement the Cabinet decision that he himself had put forth.

Dobrev would submit a request to the National Assembly on October 24 agreeing to give up his immunity from prosecution, a statement by GERB’s media office said.

He is the second former economy and energy minister to be targeted by prosecutors in their investigation of alleged mismanagement of the Belene project. Last week, Petar Dimitrov, who held the portfolio in Sergei Stanishev’s socialist-led cabinet from 2007 to 2009, was indicted on charges of criminal mismanagement, with prosecutors claiming that  Dimitrov failed to exercise proper control over the actions of former managers at the state electric utility NEK.

That indictment came after former NEK executive directors Lyubomir Velkov and Mardik Papazyan were charged as part of the same investigation, accused of causing the Bulgarian state damages of more than 77 million euro in the sale of equipment from the unfinished Belene project to Russian company Atomstroyexport.

Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of Russia’s nuclear corporation Rosatom, was picked in 2005 to build two 1000MW reactors at Belene. The project was shelved in 2012 because of uncertainty about the project’s final costs, prompting the Russian contractor to file an arbitration claim seeking damages in excess of one billion euro.

In June, the arbitration court ruled in favour of Atomstroyexport, awarding damages of about 620 million euro. Last month, Parliament approved a bill that would allow a cash injection for NEK to pay off the debt, but the government is waiting for the European Commission to rule on whether this would meet EU’s state aid rules before disbursing the funds. According to official projections, the amount owed will increase to 646 million euro, due to the daily penalty clause, by the end of the year.

(Delyan Dobrev photo: gerb.bg)



The Sofia Globe staff

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