Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov told a Cabinet meeting on April 30 that anyone found to have cheated in the programme of EU funding for guest houses should be prosecuted immediately.
Borissov was speaking a few days after an investigation began into allegations that EU funds for guest houses had instead been used to build private residences. Among those named in media reports are people in public life.
He told the Cabinet that anyone found culpable by the investigation should be dismissed and prosecuted.
The programme had been intended to support tourism and many of the houses were used as intended, Borissov said.
“Unfortunately, there is always someone who can abuse the programme, and so to this day we have not opened a new programme,” he said.
Agriculture Minister Roumen Porozhanov told the Cabinet that in the programme period of 2007/13, there were 746 guest houses.
To date, more than 110 guest houses had been inspected, and more than 10 million leva in sanctions imposed, and more than nine million leva where a full refund of the subsidy for more than 32 houses had been required. The remainder involved “financial corrections” for incomplete implementation of the business plan.
Porozhanov said that the first case had come to light in 2016, involving a lecturer at the University of Plovdiv who had a “guest house” that was not actually used for its intended purpose.
“The problem is definitely that there are unscrupulous beneficiaries,” he said.
Porozhanov said that the investigation was covering all guest houses, regardless of whether the monitoring period had expired. “If it is found that the business plan is not being implemented, the houses are not used for the intended purpose, the refund amount will be recovered.”
The current inspections are being carried out by the police, prosecutors and the National Revenue Agency.
Borissov said that anyone found to be guilty should be dismissed and handed to prosecutors, adding that he wanted an “uncompromising” approach.
For several weeks, headlines in Bulgaria have been dominated by real estate transactions involving politicians mainly from the ruling majority, with the revelations in reports – and subsequent investigations and resignations – seen by opinion polls as having caused substantial political damage to Borissov’s party ahead of Bulgaria’s May 2019 European Parliament elections.