Bulgarian prosecutors charge former energy minister over Russian gas cut-off
Bulgaria’s prosecutor’s office has filed charges of intentional mismanagement against a former energy minister, former deputy energy minister and a former executive at state-owned gas company Bulgargaz, arguing that their actions caused 88 million leva, or about 45 million euro, in damages to the company.
Although the prosecutors did not name the three individuals, only providing their initials, the officials in question appear to be former energy minister Alexander Nikolov, his former deputy Danail Nikolov and former Bulgargaz director Lyudmil Yotsov.
Speaking to reporters, investigator Biserka Stoyanova said that the investigation focused on the “forming the official position of Bulgargaz, as a public company, in relation to the proposed new payment scheme for the long-term contract with Gazprom.”
This refers to Gazprom’s demand in April 2022 that all foreign customers should pay for gas supplies in roubles. After Bulgaria refused to comply with the unilateral change in contract terms, Gazprom cut off all gas supplies to the country.
Nikolov, who was the energy minister in the Kiril Petkov cabinet at the time, from the quota of cable television presenter Slavi Trifonov’s ITN party, said that the charges against him “come down to the fact that Bulgaria did not give in to Gazprom and Russia’s blackmail and that is why we are here,” as quoted by Bulgarian National Radio.
Stoyanova said that in addition to causing 88 million leva in damages to Bulgargaz in April and May 2022, the alleged mismanagement put at risk the state company’s remit to act as a public supplier of gas, specifically its duty to ensure secure and uninterrupted deliveries.
Bulgarian media reports claimed that the investigation looked into the allegations that immediately after Gazprom’s decision, the country continued to purchase Russian gas through intermediaries, at a surcharge of 30 per cent.
Asked to comment on this, Stoyanova declined to give further details, saying that doing so at this time would endanger the ongoing investigation.
Bulgarian prosecutors have in recent years launched a number of investigations and pressed mismanagement charges against former Cabinet officials over actions taken or not taken while in office, alleging that these resulted in damages to public finances.
These investigations, some of which have reached the trial stage, are yet to result in convictions.
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