Bulgaria Top Cop Seeks Probe into Alleged Graft Scheme between Ex PM, Austrian Lobbyist

Bulgaria in EU | March 12, 2012, Monday // 17:47|  views

Interior Minster Tsvetanov has demanded an ad hoc inquiry committee should be set up to shed light on the affair between Stanishev and Hochegger. Photo by BGNES

Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Interior Minister, Deputy Prime Minster and Chair of center-right ruling party GERB, has insisted that an ad hoc inquiry committee should be set up in connection with the scandal with Austrian lobbyist Peter Hochegger and Bulgaria's previous Three-Way Coalition government.

Speaking at a Tuesday press conference in the northern city of Veliko Tarnovo, Tsvetanov said that during his recent visit to Brussels he had been alerted to a report of a committee of the Austrian Parliament in which the name of the former Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev appeared in a very negative context.

The Interior Minister explained that the Austrian lobbyist had allegedly been paid EUR 1.5 M by the three-way coalition Cabinet, with a portion of the money returning to the PR agency of Monika Yanova, the live-in girlfriend of former Prime Minister Stanishev, who is already a mother of his child.

Citing the report of the Austrian authorities, Tsvetanov argued that the money had been transferred in the period 2007-2008 so that Hochegger's company would "brush up Bulgaria's image formed during the "brilliant" rule of Sergey Stanishev.

Tsvetanov demanded that the ad-hoc committee shed light on the reasons behind the money transfers and on the concrete benefits for the state.

He added that he expected a spike in political pressure on the activity of the Interior Ministry as a result of his accusations.

Media publications revealed recently that Hochegger's PR agency had been hired by the Three-way Coalition government in 2008 to hold a one-year promotional campaign to boost Bulgaria's image in the EU.

The public procurement was worth around EUR 1 M.

However, some EUR 100 000 of sum were shown to have been  transferred to former Austrian Interior Minister Ernst Strasser as a fee.

According to the reports of Austrian and Bulgarian media outlets, Strasser's name was nowhere to be found in the contract between Bulgaria and Hochegger's firm.

In an interview for Capital weekly, former Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev specified that he had never met Strasser and had no idea about his role in the execution of the public procurement contract.

Monika Yanova, on the other hand, denied having had any working relations with Hochegger.

"We have met, but the truth is that I have never had anything in common with them. I do not have the capacity, they are a huge international company, while my territory is Bulgaria," she told Capital weekly.

The newspaper noted, however, that it had a document from 2006 signed between Dr. Hochegger Kommunikationsberatung Gesellschaft and Yanova's PR agency.

"Mr. Hochegger had a foreign customer who had a problem. I helped so that the problem could be resolved," Ernst Strasser told Austrian investigative authorities, without specifying the type of assistance and the name of the foreign customer.

Hochegger himself admitted that he had collaborated with the Bulgarian government on two projects.

"The first one, I believe, was for the sum of EUR 500 000, while the second one was bigger and was worth around EUR 1 M," he told Austrian MPs.

Austrian daily Die Presse also drew attention to the fact that the controversial contract stipulated Active Group, a PR agency owned by Monika Yanova as a subcontractor.

The logistics and the promotional events under the contract with Hochegger passed through Active Group.

The Austrian newspaper reported about a similar scenario with Yanova's participation taking place in 2006.

The Stanishev Cabinet was said to have hired Hochegger's firm to popularize the achievements of the Bulgarian economy abroad, the subcontractor being once again Yanova's company.

The PR agency was found to have been selected without a public tender.

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Tags: Tsvetan Tsvetanov, Interior Minister, graft, Sergey Stanishev, Peter Hochegger, three-way coalition, Monika Yanova, Bulgarian Socialist Party, lobbyist, Austrian


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