The Prosecutor’s Office has opened 23 investigations into possible EU funds fraud with subsidies for guest houses. Nine months have passed since the story alleging 746 cases of wrongdoing and misuse of EU funds, intended to help small tourism businesses broke. According to reports and real guesthouse owners the millions in subsidies never reached actual owners but were redirected to people close to power who misrepresented their personal properties in order to get hold of the funds, which they used to build and renovate their holiday homes.
Then-Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov ordered the Ministry of Interior to investigate the allegations. Now his successor Ivan Geshev apparently zeroed in on 23 of them, which the prosecutors will focus on. The Prosecutor’s Office still said that the investigation into the other 723 guesthouses will continue.
The story broke last spring when the investigative site bivol.bg reported that the former Deputy Economics Minister Alexander Manolev received EU funds to build a luxurious villa. The property was described as a guesthouse in order to be eligible for the subsidy but was clearly used only as a private home. Manolev initially denied all allegations but eventually resigned his post as deputy minister. The investigation into the case revealed that the name listed in the deed of both the house and land is in fact his babysitter’s daughter, the 25-year-old Ana Dimitrova. Both will face charges for the whole development, which investigators have deemed entirely illegal. The trial is still pending as every single judge in the district court of Blagoevgrad have recused themselves. The Supreme Court of Cassation must decide where to transfer the case.
As the scandal reached a point of coverage, which the administration could no longer ignore, the institution in charge of the EU funds began an audit into all projects funded by the program. It concluded significant violations in all but 23 projects, which had to return a total of over 90 million leva.
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