The Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office has arrested the head of the Fisheries and Aquaculture Agency as well as another staff member and a representative of a company that got EU funding through the agency, in connection with an investigation into the alleged misuse of funds.
Agency head Yancho Yanev and the other others were taken into custody on the night of October 24 as officers from the Sofia City Prosecutor’s Office’s anti-corruption unit carried out an operation simultaneously in the Black Sea city of Bourgas, capital Sofia and the town of Yambol in south-eastern Bulgaria.
Media reports named the other two people taken into custody as Galia Machorska and Mihail Zlatev.
The three are being held in 24-hour custody. They are expected to be formally charged by the end of October 25.
The spokesperson for the Prosecutor-General’s office, Roumyana Arnaudova, said that search-and-seizure operations were carried out in various places, with evidence being collected and witnesses interviewed.
Arnaudova said that the investigation was in connection with alleged misuse of funds from various EU programmes. The investigation, which has been underway for several months, was into alleged use of false data by Bulgarian companies to receive European funds.
The agency manages a fisheries programme that has a budget to the year 2020 of 113 million euro, of which 88 million euro comes from EU funds.
Yanev, an employee of the agency since 2009, was appointed head of the agency in 2014 after his predecessor was dismissed following under-performance by the agency leading to the European Commission initiating an infringement procedure against Bulgaria.
Bulgarian National Radio said on October 25 that the change had not stopped the fishing industry from sending an unprecedented letter to the European Commissioner for Fisheries demanding that the Agency for Fisheries and Aquaculture be isolated from the management of European funds for Bulgaria in the new programming period.
The industry had said that with changes at the head of the agency, there had been “purges and upheavals” in the work of the administration, leading to ambiguity in decision-making, changing rules and lack of professionalism, BNR said.