Today, the first court hearing of an EPPO case in Bulgaria took place in Sofia (Bulgaria) in the Specialised Criminal Court. The defendant, a General Expert working for the Bulgarian State Fund Agriculture (SFA), has been in custody since the beginning of September 2021 and has been brought to court for his first hearing in a case of bribery.
T.D., the defendant, 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 above-mentioned scheme. He was supposed to receive these in December 2020, but they never arrived.
Delivery of agricultural subsidies
In January 2021, he decided to take matters into his own hands and in February 2021, he started to look for someone who could help him to receive the subsidies. A friend of his gave him the name and mobile phone number of T.D., General Expert at the SFA. The two met and T.D. explained that he knew why certain payments were late, and that he could help I.G. receive the subsidies more quickly if he paid him BGN 5000 (€2558). With the help of the payment, T.D. could arrange something among his colleagues and influence them to authorise the payments of the subsidies. Even before the payment of the bribe, but after the firsts meetings between the defendant and I.G., I.G. had received some initial subsidies. However, once I.G. had paid the bribe (and during the incriminating period), he received almost 600 000 BGN (€306 790) in total under several schemes and measures from the EU’s Rural Development Programme 2014–2022 via the SFA. Yet, this was not the end of the business relationship between the two of them. I.G. paid another bribe of BGN 5000 BGN (€2558) some months after he had paid the first bribe, 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 in Bulgaria
Bribery (art. 304b Criminal Code) is a criminal offence in Bulgaria and punishable by imprisonment of up to six years and a fine from up to BGN 5000 (€2558). The verdict of this case is expected in the coming months.