The deputy executive director of the State Fund Agriculture has resigned after her phone number was found an accommodation reservation website for a guest house in Yundola, in the latest episode in the controversy over guest houses that has seized Bulgaria in recent days.
An investigation is underway into 746 guest houses in Bulgaria developed with EU money, following allegations of the money being used to build private accommodation instead of it being used for its intended purpose.
A statement by the Agriculture Ministry said that minister Roumen Porozhanov had, on the orders of Prime Minister Boiko Borissov, requested and received the resignation of Ivanka Bagdatova-Mizova.
An investigation into the matter of the guest house was to be carried out, the Agriculture Ministry said. The statement made reference only to the fact of the phone number on the website and no allegation of criminal conduct has been made.
Nova Televizia reported on May 1 that the managers of the guest house, Emine and Mehmed Mestan, denied that Bagdatova-Mizova had anything to do with the business. They said that they did know her, because her father-in-law had property in Yundola.
They did not know how her phone number came to be on the site advertising the guest house. They had been repeatedly inspected in the past by a number of institutions, including the State Fund Agriculture, they said.
Father-in-law Nikolai Mizov said that he was angry that she had resigned, and said that the decision to do so was stupid.
At a Cabinet meeting on April 30, Borissov called for an “uncompromising” approach when people were found to have misused EU funds for guest houses.
Five days earlier, prosecutors announced that criminal charges were being lodged against former deputy economy minister Alexander Manolev for alleged abuse of EU funds. Manolev allegedly used EU money granted for a guest house to build a private villa with a swimming pool. He denies wrongdoing.
According to the State Fund Agriculture’s website, Bagdatova-Mizova, a graduate in accounting from the University of National and World Economy, began her career in 2002 at the Agriculture Ministry, and from 2003 held various positions at the State Fund Agriculture, including in the directorate for supporting investment schemes.
The issue of the guest houses has followed several weeks of reports about acquisition of real estate by politicians, mainly in Bulgaria’s ruling majority, that have led to official investigations and resignations, and which polls show have damaged Borissov’s GERB political party in the run-up to Bulgaria’s May 2019 European Parliament elections.