European prosecutors in evidence-gathering searches in probe into Bulgaria’s Zheleznitsa tunnel

At the request of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Sofia, searches were taking place on April 1 in six companies and four private houses in two Bulgarian districts, EPPO said.

The searches are intended to gather evidence in a suspected case of embezzlement, misuse of EU funds and money laundering linked to the construction of the Zheleznitsa tunnel, the longest road tunnel in Bulgaria that was recently opened for traffic, the statement said.

The construction of the Zheleznitsa tunnel along the Struma motorway was led by the Bulgarian Road Infrastructure Agency who contracted a consortium of three companies to implement the project, co-financed by the European Cohesion Fund, under the Operational Programme Transport and transport infrastructure (2014-2020).

The contractor received about 185 million leva, 85 per cent of which was financed by EU funds. 
After a report received by Bulgaria’s State Agency for National Security, the EPPO in Sofia opened an investigation, which uncovered that one of the companies that is part of the consortium is suspected of several criminal offences, including embezzlement, misuse of EU funds and money laundering.

“The company under investigation allegedly made, in a very short time, several fictitious money transfers amounting to more than 11 million leva to a chain of hollow companies, which led to a withdrawal of high amounts of cash by individuals with criminal records,” EPPO said.

“These companies and individuals are also appearing in another ongoing EPPO investigation concerning infrastructure projects in the railway sector.”

The investigation is ongoing, in order to ascertain the nature and extent of the suspected criminal activities. Today’s searches were conducted by the General Directorate of the National Police and the State Agency for National Security, EPPO said.

(Photo: Road Infrastructure Agency)

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