(Luxembourg, 11 August 2023) – The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Sofia (Bulgaria) carried out searches yesterday at numerous locations, in an investigation into two projects for the modernisation of the railway infrastructure, worth over €241 million in EU financing.
More than 100 police officers and agents from Bulgaria’s National Police General Directorate (ГДНП) and Bulgaria’s State Agency for National Security (ДАНС) participated in the searches, carried out at 28 locations in the districts of Sofia, Burgas, Varna, Stara Zagora, Smolyan and Pazardzhik.
On the radar of the EPPO are two projects for the modernisation of the railway infrastructure. The first concerns the section between the cities of Kostenets and Septemvri of the Sofia-Plovdiv railway line, financed by the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) – previously INEA –, to the amount of more than €130 million. The second involves the modernisation of the railway section between Orizovo and Mihaylovo – part of the second phase of the rehabilitation of the Plovdiv-Burgas railway infrastructure –, financed by the Cohesion Fund, under the Operational Programme Transport and Transport infrastructure, to the amount of over €111 million.
The beneficiary of both projects is the National Railway Infrastructure Company of Bulgaria, and the construction contracts were awarded to two private companies with international participation.
The works on these two sections of railway tracks are still ongoing, but several payments have already been made by the beneficiary to the contractors.
The investigation uncovered facts that could constitute criminal offences, including misuse of EU funds and money laundering. The contractors are suspected of having made, in a short period of time, fictitious money transfers to a chain of hollow companies, which ultimately led to the withdrawal of cash amounts of more than €2.5 million (BGN 5 million) by individuals with criminal records.
During yesterday’s searches, carried out at the suspects’ homes and at the premises of the companies under investigation, two individuals were arrested. In addition, public officials from the National Railway Infrastructure Company will be questioned, regarding the disbursement of EU funds.
The investigation is ongoing, in order to ascertain the nature and extent of the suspected criminal activities.
All persons concerned are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in the competent Bulgarian courts of law.
The EPPO is the independent public prosecution office of the European Union. It is responsible for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to judgment crimes against the financial interests of the EU.