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OLAF Exposes Fraudsters in Bulgarian Water Infrastructure Projects

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has investigated several cases of alleged fraud and irregularities that targeted EU funds meant for water infrastructure and wastewater modernization projects. Over EUR19.5 million were defrauded from EU taxpayer’s money. Two of the fraudulent projects are in Bulgaria and the rest were in Romania and Hungary.
In one of the Bulgarian cases, OLAF’s investigation found that a wastewater treatment plant that was completed in 2012 as part of the project had in fact never started operating. The facility was meant to clean and remove contaminants from wastewater, now instead posing a risk to public health and the environment. Upon closure of the investigation, EUR 4.8 million were recommended for recovery.
In the other case, OLAF, acting on an alert from an anonymous source, investigated five major construction and supervision contracts within the scope of a local project. Evidence discovered during the investigation suggested that false documents had been submitted during the award process and that subsequent substandard work had been approved during the implementation phase. A total of EUR 6.9 million were recommended for recovery and a judicial recommendation was sent to the Bulgarian authorities.
OLAF Director-General Ville Itälä said: “OLAF has concluded four investigations on modernization projects for water and wastewater facilities. Findings ranged from submission of false documents or failure to meet the eligibility criteria for EU funding, to treatment facilities that were constructed but never worked. These type of facilities are meant to supply clean water and protect citizens and the environment from contamination. The fact that OLAF has uncovered these suspected frauds means that money can be returned to the EU budget and used for the benefit of citizens, not for making fraudsters rich. In total more than EUR 19.5 million were recommended for recovery for the four cases.”