Bulgarian deputy minister resigns after prosecutors begin probe into alleged misappropriation of EU funds

Bulgarian Deputy Economy Minister Alexander Manolev resigned on April 17, hours after the Supreme Cassation Prosecutor’s Office said that it begun an investigation following media reports alleging that he illegally used European Union funds to build a private villa with a mineral pool.

Prime Minister Boiko Borissov accepted Manolev’s resignation, the government information service said.

Manolev, who has denied wrongdoing, was quoted in the government statement as saying that with the beginning of the investigation, he did not want the matter to interfere in the work of the goverment.

Further, he wanted to show solidarity with his colleagues “who had complied with the moral standard in government and left their posts only over suspicions”.

Since a succession of investigations began into top Bulgarian politicians in connection with alleged irregularities in real estate deals, the country’s Justice Minister and two deputy ministers have resigned, as has Tsvetan Tsvetanov, deputy leader of Borissov’s GERB party, who resigned as an MP.

“I am sure that there is nothing against me in the documentation, but I cannot burden my family again with this,” the statement quoted Manolev as saying, adding that he said that his decision was a personal one.

The Prosecutor’s Office said on April 17 that the investigation had begun two days earlier. The Supreme Cassation Prosecutor’s Office had requested from the State Fund Agriculture a certified copy of the project financed during the Rural Development Programme, quoted in the media reports.

The documentation concerns the building of a guest house in the area of Sandanski in southern Bulgaria.

Prosecutors will take written statements from people who have information about the case, State Fund Agriculture officials who dealt with the approval of the application for assistance, the subsequent authorisation of payment, as well as compliance with Rural Development Programme regulations.

The Supreme Cassation Prosecutor’s Office will ask the National Revenue Agency to check compliance with the Social Insurance Code, the Prosecutor’s Office said.

Manolev was Deputy Minister of Tourism in the second Borissov government, and became Deputy Economy Minister in the third, which came into office in 2017. In September 2018, he was nominated to become Transport Minister after the incumbent resigned over the Svoge bus crash. Manolev declined the nomination after negative media reports about his past. At the time, he said that he was consulting lawyers about these reports.

In recent weeks, headlines in Bulgaria have been dominated by a succession of official investigations initiated in connection with allegations involving real estate deals by top politicians.

Among those currently on leave pending the outcome of investigations is the head of Bulgaria’s anti-corruption commission, Plamen Georgiev. All of those under investigation have denied wrongdoing.



The Sofia Globe staff

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