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Attempted fraud relating to wine subsidies: €400 000 worth of damages to EU budget prevented

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The manager of a wine company in Plovdiv (Bulgaria) has been convicted of attempted fraud relating to EU funds aimed at promoting the export of wine outside of the European Union. The manager submitted forged documents during the funding application and was sentenced to one year of imprisonment and a fine. Almost €400 000 worth of damages to the EU budget was prevented. This is the first conviction in an investigation by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Bulgaria.

In March 2020, the wine company applied for €390 452 in EU subsidies under the EU’s 2019–2023 National Support Programme in the Wine and Vineyard Sector, in order to promote the export of their wines to Russia, Belarus and Vietnam from 2021 until 2023.

In order to meet the requirements for receiving financial aid, each prospective beneficiary had to present three comparable, independent offers to the State Fund Agriculture (SFA). During their checks, the SFA discovered that two of the three companies presented had, in fact, not issued any offer at all. For both offers, the signatures had been copied illegally.

The SFA reported this irregularity to Bulgaria’s Supreme Cassation Prosecutor's Office, and the Sofia City Prosecutor's Office initiated pre-trial proceedings. After starting its operations in 2021, the EPPO took over the case.

The accused pleaded guilty and concluded an agreement with the EPPO that was approved by the Specialised Criminal Court. He received a punishment of one year of imprisonment with suspended serving of three years, and a fine of BGN 2 000 (around €1000) .