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(DF) First European Public Prosecutor’s Office Indictment in Bulgaria: Bribery of State Fund Agriculture Official

January 20 (BTA correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov) – The first court hearing of a European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) case in Bulgaria took place in the Specialized Criminal Court in Sofia, the EPPO said Thursday. The defendant, a General Expert working for the Bulgarian State Fund Agriculture (SFA), has been in custody since the beginning of September 2021 and was brought to court for his first hearing in a case of bribery. The defendant T.D. received a bribe from I.G. – farmer, and owner of an agricultural company. I.G. had applied for financing under schemes and measures within the EU’s Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, whose managing authority in Bulgaria is the Bulgarian State Fund Agriculture (SFA). According to the SFA procedures, I.G. was eligible to both apply for and receive subsidies under the schemes within the EU’s Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. He was supposed to receive these in December 2020, but they never arrived. In February 2021, I.G. started looking for someone who could help him receive the subsidies and a friend of his gave him the name and mobile phone number of T.D. The two met and the defendant explained that he could help I.G. by influencing his colleagues to authorize more quickly the payments of the subsidies if I.G. paid him 5,000 leva (2,558 euro). Once I.G. had paid the bribe (and during the incriminating period), he received almost 600,000 leva (306,790 euro) in total under several schemes and measures from the EU’s Rural Development Programme 2014-2022 via the SFA. I.G. paid another bribe of 5,000 leva, so that no further inspections regarding his subsidies and application would be carried out, or if they were carried out, that they would end up positively for him. Bribery is a criminal offence in Bulgaria punishable by imprisonment of up to six years and a fine of up to 5,000 leva. The verdict of this case is expected in the coming months, the EPPO said. DD/YV