Bulgarian prosecutors indict deputy foreign minister over telephone exchanges at foreign missions

Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Hristo Angelichin faces criminal charges in connection with the purchase of telephone exchanges for 12 of the country’s overseas missions, the Prosecutor’s Office said on January 20.

The Sofia City Prosecutor’s office laid the charges following an investigation prompted by allegations by Kristian Vigenin, opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party spokesperson on foreign affairs and who was foreign minister in the 2013/14 administration.

The announcement of the indictment came a few hours after prosecutors said that they were investigating senior officials at the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs over a travel deal.

Prosecutors allege that in November-December 2016, Angelichin caused financial damage to the Foreign Ministry of 839 876 leva (429 422 euro) and breached the principles of equality and non-discrimination, free competition, proportionality, openness and transparency in the course of public procurement contracting.

In October 2015, Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov had instructed Angelichin to monitor the activities of ministry directorates including that of the budget and finance, management of property and security.

Prosecutors noted that the exchanges had to be replaced in terms of the Foreign Ministry’s plan to prepare Bulgaria for its European Union presidency in 2018.

The prosecutors’ statement said that the cost of the replacement of the telephone exchanges was over the threshold that required an open procedure for public procurement.

However, Angelichin did not follow this procedure, instead ordering the heads of Bulgarian missions in Brussels, Geneva, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Berlin, Brussels, Warsaw, Stockholm, Ankara and Istanbul to immediately pay a sum of 429 422 euro to a company. Angelichin’s purpose was to benefit the company to that sum, prosecutors allege.

The statement said that the financial damage was not to the full extent of this sum, because the matter had been referred to prosecutors and after a review by the State Agency for National Security, some of the heads of missions had not proceeded to buy the exchanges and some had taken steps to get the money back.

All documentation in the case had been requested and most of the heads of mission had been questioned, the prosecutors said.

Angelichin is on bail against a requirement that he regularly signs an official register. The investigation was proceeding, the Prosecutor’s Office said.




The Sofia Globe staff

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