(DF) Interior Ministry Officials Probed for Possible Fraud after OLAF Alert over Vehicle Purchase

February 2 (BTA) – The prosecution service is probing Interior Ministry officials for possible fraud after an alert by the European anti-fraud office, OLAF, over a deal for purchase of vehicles for the Ministry. Valentina Madjarova, the acting head of the specialized prosecution office which prosecutes organized crime and offences by office holders, said that the case will likely be the first one in Bulgaria for the new European prosecution office as soon as it starts work. Madjarova held a news briefing a day after OLAF issued a statement saying that the Bulgarian Interior Ministry has violated the terms of an EU grant agreement for the purchase of all-terrain vehicles. It urged Bulgaria to pay back 6 million euro it used in EU funding for the project and to investigate possible malfeasance in office by Interior Ministry officials. Some news outlets Monday reported that the contract for the all-terrain vehicles was signed by then caretaker Interior Minister Plamen Ouzounov, who is now secretary to President Ruen Radev. The acting head of the specialized prosecution office would neither confirm nor deny that. On February 1, the President’s Office slammed a report in 24 Chassa daily for writing that “OLAF suspects Plamen Ouzounov of corruption”. It said that the controversial contract for vehicle purchase was signed in February 2018 and not March 2017, as the story alleges, and that was after the tenure of the caretaker government in which Ouzounov was Interior Minister. The dateline shows that the contract was signed under Valentin Radev (GERB) but the contracting procedure was opened and the contractor picked under Ouzounov. The contract is for delivery and maintenance of 290 all-terrain police patrol cars for a total of 13.9 million leva after VAT. The contractor is Bulgarian Automobile Industry EAD. In transpired from the prosecution service’ announcement on Tuesday that they received documents on the case from OLAF about a month ago, together with the recommendation to open a probe into possible abuse of office and enrichment of a third party. Based on these, the Bulgarian prosecutors have decided to add the OLAF materials to a trade-in-influence case they had opened previously, bringing charges against two persons. Ouzounov is already probed for trade in influence in another case. RY/LN/