site.btaEuropean Public Prosecutor's Office Investigates Agricultural Finds Fraud in Bulgaria
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) said that under its supervision Bulgaria’s General Directorate for Combating Organised Crime has arrested three people and carried out searches in six locations on Tuesday, in an investigation into an organised crime group understood to have illegally obtained EU agricultural funds.
Based on the investigative activities carried out by the General Directorate for Combating Organised Crime and Bulgaria’s State Agency for National Security
and the evidence and documents that have been seized, the suspects are alleged to have provided false information on behalf of other persons to the competent authorities in order to obtain agricultural funding.
According to the evidence, instead of applying for agricultural funds for a large piece of land, the organised crime group divided it into smaller plots. It is alleged that they subsequently used persons in low socio-economic positions as proxies for submitting applications for agricultural funds.
It is understood that the leader of the organised crime group received authorisation from the proxies to act as their representative before Bulgaria’s State Fund Agriculture and Bulgaria’s District Service for Agriculture, as well as before commercial banks. This meant that he could directly take the EU agricultural funds they had applied for, and gain full control over the projects.
The investigation also indicates that two public officials from the State Fund Agriculture and the District may have served as members of the organised criminal group. It is believed that they facilitated the activities of the group by providing information and advice related to the relevant operational programme and the subsequent checks during the implementation of the projects.
One of the public officials was among the three people arrested.
The total amount of the damage has still to be estimated.