On behalf of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Sofia, Bulgaria’s anti-organised crime squad arrested three people and carried out searches in six locations on September 26, in an investigation into an organised crime group understood to have illegally obtained EU agricultural funds, EPPO said in a media statement
Based on an investigation by the Chief Directorate for Combating Organised Crime and the State Agency for National Security, and the evidence and documents that have been seized, the suspects are alleged to have provided false information on behalf of other persons to the competent authorities in order to obtain agricultural funding, EPPO said.
According to the evidence, instead of applying for agricultural funds for a large piece of land, the organised crime group divided it into smaller plots.
It is alleged that they subsequently used people “in low socio-economic positions” as proxies for submitting applications for agricultural funds, the statement said.
It is understood that the leader of the organised crime group received authorisation from the proxies to act as their representative before Bulgaria’s State Fund Agriculture and Bulgaria’s District Service for Agriculture, as well as before commercial banks. This meant that he could directly take the EU agricultural funds they had applied for, and gain full control over the projects, EPPO said.
The investigation also indicates that two public officials from the State Fund Agriculture and the district may have served as members of the organised criminal group, the statement said.
“It is believed that they facilitated the activities of the group by providing information and advice related to the relevant operational programme and the subsequent checks during the implementation of the projects.”
One of the public officials was among the three people arrested. In addition, property searches were carried out at five private addresses and at the District Service for Agriculture in Sevlievo, and body-searches were conducted on four persons.
The investigative activities are still ongoing, and the total amount of the damage has still to be estimated, EPPO said.
(Photo: Andrea Krappweis/freeimages.com)
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