EU Prosecutor Investigates Embezzlement of EU Funds in Bulgaria

On request of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, over 100 officers conducted last week searches across 28 districts in Bulgaria, seeking evidence of embezzlement in two EU-financed projects aimed at modernizing the country's railway system.

Railway Track BulgariaEPPO investigates the alleged misuse of EU funds aimed at modernization of railroads in Bulgaria. (Photo: PxHere, License)The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Sofia said on Friday that the investigation unveiled potential criminal offenses such as the misuse of EU funds and money laundering.

Two people have been arrested during the investigation into how 241 million euro (US$263.28 million) of EU funds have been spent.

OCCRP partner Bivol wrote in 2018 about the irregularities concerning 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), amounting to more than 130 million euro ($141.97 million).

The second project involves the modernization of the railway section between Orizovo and Mihaylovo, financed by the Cohesion Fund under the Operational Programme Transport and Transport infrastructure, totaling over 111 million euro ($121.21 million).

The contractors under suspicion allegedly conducted fictitious money transfers to a network of nonexistent organizations within a short timeframe, resulting in the withdrawal of over 2.5 million euro ($2.72 million) by individuals with criminal backgrounds.

As the beneficiary of both projects, the National Railway Infrastructure Company of Bulgaria will have its public officials questioned regarding the disbursement of EU funds.

The EPPO, tasked with investigating, prosecuting, and addressing crimes against the EU's financial interests, confirmed that the ongoing investigation aims to ascertain the nature and extent of the suspected criminal activities.