Bulgaria’s State Fund Agriculture seeks return of 46M leva EU funding for guest houses

Investigations so far by Bulgaria’s State Fund Agriculture into alleged abuses of European Union funding for guest house projects have resulted in it demanding the return of 46.4 million leva (about 27.3 million euro), it said in a statement posted on its website.

The investigation followed media reports about various alleged abuses of EU rural development funding used to build guest houses, with claims that at least some were being used as private residences and did not admit guests.

The statement said that of 288 projects that had received funding under the EU’s 2007-2013 rural development programme, results for 276 had been processed.

A total of 253 were being required to return 46.4 million leva, of which 158 were being told to return the full funding, adding up to 43.1 million, while the remaining 95 projects had partial sanctions adding up to 3.3 million leva.

A total of 23 projects had not yet been sanctioned and the remaining 12 were still being processed, the statement said.

The State Fund Agriculture said that the most common violations of the rules involved not keeping to the approved business plan. These included failures to fulfil commitments to create new jobs and a lack of assets for which subsidies had been paid.

The total subsidy for all 288 guest houses added up to 81 million leva.

Former Deputy Minister of Economy Alexander Manolev and 25-year-old Anna Dimitrova face criminal charges in connection with guest house projects. It is alleged that they presented false information to receive EU funding. The two, who both deny wrongdoing, were indicted in early October 2019, five months after pre-trial proceedings were initiated.

(The photo is illustrative and there is no suggestion the houses depicted were subject to investigation. Photo: Krassimir Kosev)

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