Five Arrested, Two Wanted for EU Funds Fraud - Deputy Prosecutor General

May 3 (BTA) - Five persons have been detained for 72 hours and two others (a woman in Turkey and another person in a EU Member States) are wanted in connection with EU funds fraud as part of an investigation carried out by the prosecution service, the State Agency for National Security and the Interior Ministry, Bulgaria's Deputy Prosecutor General Ivan Geshev told a news briefing on Friday.

State Fund Agriculture (SFA) staff involved in the allocation of funding are also checked for aiding the fraud or entering into irregular relations with the suspects, Geshev said.

He specified that the fraud allegedly affected two EU-funded programmes between 2015 and 2018: the Rural Development Programme (11.5 million leva applied for an disbursed by SFA) and a programme for restructuring and conversion of vineyards (7 million leva). The companies that applied for subsidies under the two programmes were nominally unrelated to the beneficial owners but were relatives, employees and children of employees linked to the "Karnobat business empire", the Deputy Prosecutor General said, apparently referring to industrial assets owned by businessman Minyu Staikov.

Staikov was arrested in the autumn of 2018 in a separate pretrial proceeding, for tax evasion and illegal cigarette production, when evidence was found that nine young people, whose parents work in Staikov companies, had registered as agricultural producers and had fraudulently benefited from over 7 million euro subsidies under a measure for young farmers.