MP Yoncheva Reveals What Apperas to Be Financial Violation by Culture Minister Banov
108 POLITICS - ELENA YONCHEVA - PRESS CONFERENCE
MP Yoncheva Reveals What Apperas to Be
by Culture Minister Banov
Sofia, January 30(BTA) - Journalist and Socialist MP Elena Yoncheva made public Wednesday a voice recording of Culture Minister Boil Banov which reveals what appears to be financial violations by him. She thus delivered on a promise she made at the congress of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) last weekend, to expose corruption involving a government minister.
She said the recording presents Banov, in his capacity as Deputy Culture Minister in 2016, instructing ministry officials and construction supervision company officers how to forge documents in order to cover up a delay of a project for a makeover of the Sofia Largo, a large pedestrian space in central Sofia flanked by the buildings of the Council of Ministers, the President's Office and Parliament.
The forging of the documents allegedly aimed to spare a fine of 700,000 leva for the contractor in the second and third stage of the EU-funded Largo project.
The recording was played on Wednesday at a press conference in the BSP headquarters.
Yoncheva said the recording was given by an anonymous ministry employee who is ready to testify. The witness has given an interview for BSP's very own and brand new television, and it is yet to be shown.
Documents and data collected on the case will be forwarded to the prosecution magistracy and the European Anti-Fraud Office, as EU funds are involved.
Reacting to the revelations, Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandukova distanced herself from the matter and said that City Hall was not involved in the Largo construction. The project was implemented by the Culture Ministry and the municipal authorities are only in charge of the post-construction management of the Largo.
Vezhdi Rashidov, who was Culture Minister in 2016 and now heads the parliamentary media and culture committee, commented that the Largo site had undergone "European and whatnot audits". It transpired from his remarks that penalties have been imposed for all delays in this project but some have been contested in court by the contractor.
Immediate probe, possible malfeasance in office or mismanagement
Later that day, the Prosecutor General's Office said an immediate probe has been ordered. It will be done by the Specialized Prosecution Office as a government minister is involved. The prosecutors have three months to complete the probe.
Prosecutor General's spokesperson Roumyana Arnaoudova said that the sound recordings indicate possible malfeasance in office or mismanagement by Boil Banov and other persons.
She said that the questioning of persons involved in the case starts the very same day.
She said that the sound recordings could be used as proof in court but before that they need to be examined by experts.
Arnaoudova made it clear that the prosecution magistracy can offer protection to the anonymous witness if he has concerns for his life and welbeing.
Banov does not feel guilty, is ready to resign
Culture Minister Boil Banov dismissed the accusations and said he does not feel guilty but is ready to resign "because this is the right thing to do".
He suggested that the sound recordings have been fabricated in a smear campaign and said that hundreds of such recordings could have been fabricated out of all the working meetings he has had.
He said he is ready to sue everybody digging dirt against him, "including this MP - what was her name".
Elena Yoncheva has long been a popular personality with her work as a journalist and then also for being a partner of former Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev - but the money laundering charges that were pressed against her earlier in January virtually made her a celebrity. TH/LN/RY