Austrian Lobbyist Confirms Payment to Bulgaria Ex PM-Linked PR Agency

Bulgaria in EU | March 14, 2012, Wednesday // 16:55|  views

Socialist leader and former PM Sergey Stanishev has called GERB's accusations in connection with the Hochegger corruption scandal "a smoke bomb". Photo by BGNES

Austrian lobbyist Peter Hochegger has admitted that the PR agency of Monika Yanova, the live-in girlfriend of socialist leader and ex Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev, received EUR 270 000 from his company.

"When the Bulgarian government decided to work with our agency, we were happy to take the contract. I worked as a lobbyist for 25 years, I had 120 employees in Austria and in offices in other countries, including Bulgaria," Hochegger says in an interview for Presa daily published on Wednesday.

On Monday, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov stated that a report of a commission at the Austrian Parliament had revealed that the previous three-way coalition government headed by Prime Minister Stanishev had paid EUR 1.5 M to a company of Hochegger, with part of the sum returning to the PR agency owned by Monika Yanova.

According to previous reports on the matter, Hochegger's PR agency had been hired by the Stanishev Cabinet 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.

Ernst Strasser, former Interior Minister of Austria, was said to have been transferred EUR 100 000 of the total sum without any documents indicating his contribution for the fee.

Tsvetanov demanded a probe into the matter by an ad-hoc inquiry committee.

Stanishev, on the other hand, responded by saying that center-right ruling party GERB had conjured up a Bulgarian link in the corruption scandal in Austria.

"We had two contracts in Bulgaria - one was signed in 2006 for the sum of EUR 500 000 for a period of 6 months, while the other one was for around EUR 1 M for a period of one year. Strasser was paid EUR 100 000 for rendering consultancy services for a period of one year. He helped us with the analyses he made on the Bulgarian project, but the money he received is for his overall consultancy work for the agency for a period of one year, including on Austrian projects," Hochegger tells journalists of the Bulgarian daily.

He says that other former Austrian politicians have also received payments.

"After they leave politics, they work as consultants. Infrastructure Minister Mathias Reichhold Minister received EUR 78 000, former Vice-Chancellor Hubert Gorbah received EUR 240 000 for a period of 2 years," Hocheggger notes.

"Stanishev met Strasser just once in the early stage of the project. At that point, Strasser was in Bulgaria to shed light on the situation in Europe and on how Bulgaria was perceived. We had an agreement with him to contact him whenever we needed his help. His contribution to Bulgaria's case was that he helped us with the analyses on the situation in the country and on its image abroad, on the reforms that had to be implemented in the judiciary and in the sphere of crime prevention," the Austrian PR consultant explains.

He refutes allegations that Stanishev received money on the projects.

He specifies that payments were made to board members of the project, among them two Austrians (one of them married to a Bulgarian), people from Germany and England, and "a woman from the opposition" whose name he fails to remember.

Hochegger adds that Monika Yanova's PR agency was "our partner agency with which we cooperated".

"They received 15% of the sums on the two contracts, or a total of EUR 270 000. We also collaborated with an Internet agency whose name I don't seem to remember. The agency worked on the letters we sent to European leaders and received around EUR 50 000. To put it in other words, a total of EUR 320 000 were channeled to Bulgaria," he states.

Asked to comment on how the money was used, Hocheger informs that a brochure was made which was distributed and presented at meetings in European capitals.

Besides, foreign journalists were invited to Bulgaria on two occasions to visit designated sites.

Apart from that, the money went to organizing international press conferences and meetings with the opposition to discuss essential problems.

Monika Yanova, on the other hand, has 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.

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Tags: Sergey Stanishev, Prime Minister, GERB, Peter Hochegger, corruption, lobbyist, Monika Yanova, PR Agency, Austria


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