Bulgaria: Arrests as European prosecutor’s office probes railway works worth over 241M euro

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Sofia has carried out searches yesterday at numerous locations, in an investigation into two projects for the modernisation of the railway infrastructure, worth more than 241 million euro in EU financing, EPPO said on August 11. Two people have been arrested.

More than 100 police and agents from Bulgaria’s National Police General Directorate and Bulgaria’s State Agency for National Security participated in the searches, carried out at 28 locations in the districts of Sofia, Bourgas, Varna, Stara Zagora, Smolyan and Pazardzhik, EPPO said.

On the radar of the EPPO are two projects for the modernisation of the railway infrastructure.

The first concerns the section between the cities of Kostenets and Septemvri of the Sofia-Plovdiv railway line, financed by the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) to the amount of more than 130 million euro.

The second involves the modernisation of the railway section between Orizovo and Mihaylovo – part of the second phase of the rehabilitation of the Plovdiv-Bourgas railway infrastructure –, financed by the Cohesion Fund, under the Operational Programme Transport and Transport infrastructure, to the amount of more than 111 million euro.

The beneficiary of both projects is the National Railway Infrastructure Company of Bulgaria, and the construction contracts were awarded to two private companies with international participation.

The works on these two sections of railway tracks are still ongoing, but several payments have already been made by the beneficiary to the contractors, the statement said.

“The investigation uncovered facts that could constitute criminal offences, including misuse of EU funds and money laundering,” EPPO said.

“The contractors are suspected of having made, in a short period of time, fictitious money transfers to a chain of hollow companies, which ultimately led to the withdrawal of cash amounts of more than 2.5 million euro (about five million leva) by individuals with criminal records.”

During searches on August 10, carried out at the suspects’ homes and at the premises of the companies under investigation, two individuals were arrested.

In addition, public officials from the National Railway Infrastructure Company will be questioned, regarding the disbursement of EU funds.

The investigation is ongoing, in order to ascertain the nature and extent of the suspected criminal activities.

“All persons concerned are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in the competent Bulgarian courts of law,” EPPO said.

(Archive photo: National Railway Infrastructure Company)

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