(DF) Outgoing Environment Minister Placed in Indefinite Remand

109 POLITICS – EX-MINISTER – COURT – CUSTODY January 11 (BTA) – The Specialized Criminal Court Saturday placed Environment and Water Minister Neno Dimov in indefinite remand. The ruling is appealable. The court said that in his capacity as environment and water minister, Dimov approved schedules for water supply for industrial uses although the water level of the Studena Dam kept falling dramatically. Dimov told the court that he had worked conscientiously. The minister was arrested on Thursday and was charged on Friday with wilful mismanagement which led to a water crisis and strict water rationing in the western town of Pernik. Also on Friday, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov accepted Dimov’s resignation. The detriment is currently estimated at over 11 million leva. If Dimov had not authorized the supply of water to those two companies, the dam would now hold around 7 million cu m of water, enough to avoid water rationing, according to the prosecuting magistracy. On Thursday, the prosecutors said that in breach of his obligations between early 2018 and November 17, 2019, Dimov authorized the supply of water for industrial purposes from the Studena Dam to steel manufacturer Stomana Industry and the heating utility in Pernik despite warnings about the low water level in the dam. The court acknowledged the prosecutors’ argument that Dimov could try to pressure Environment Ministry employees into hiding evidence before Parliament votes his resignation. The court also noted that while the former minister could have been misled or misinformed, this does not rule out possible culpable conduct on his part. Dimov’s lawyer, Ina Loulcheva, called the court’s ruling “an act of helplessness”. She explained that it was Deputy Minister Krassimir Zhivkov who was in charge of water and that Dimov only approved the water supply schedules proposed by Zhivkov. The lawyer questioned the decision to hold Dimov personally responsible when other people prepared the documents. The lawyer said all the letters concerning the Studena Dam and other dams were signed by Zhivkov and that information on the water level of the dam was provided by the local water company, but that no problems had been reported until last October. Prosecutor Angel Kanev told reporters that it was found during questioning that Zhivkov signed other correspondence, not the water use schedules and permissions. He only signed a document changing the water use schedule for November 2019 when water in Pernik became rationed. So far Dimov, who was nominated by the VMRO party, part of the power-sharing coalition, is the only person charged with causing the water crisis in Pernik. RI/DD //