Bulgaria's Ruling Party Also Involved in 'Hochegger Affair'

Bulgaria in EU | March 15, 2012, Thursday // 13:59|  views

PR expert and girlfriend of ex PM Sergey Stanishev Monika Yanova is one of the key figures in the Bulgarian twist of the Hochegger scandal. Photo by BGNES

The scandal with Bulgaria's involvement in the Hochegger affair has taken a new turn, after it was revealed that Rositza Velkova, head of the Bulgarian office of the company of the Austrian lobbyist, is a close friend of Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov.

According to Bulgaria's Trade Registry, Velkova was the manager of Hochegger BG from November 2008 to the summer of 2009.

Velkova is a founder of center-right party GERB and one of the authors of its governing program.

According to publications on news portal computerworld.bg, Velkova was coordinator of GERB'S IT team which prepared the party's IT and Communication strategy before the parliamentary elections.

The IT strategy was drafted at the time when Velkova represented Peter Hochegger in Bulgaria.

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, Stanishev's live-in girlfriend.

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, defended himself by saying that GERB had conjured up a Bulgarian link in the corruption scandal in Austria.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday Hochegger admitted that Yanova's PR agency had received EUR 270 000 from his company.

"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 told journalists of Capital daily.

"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 explained.

He refuted allegations that Stanishev had received any money on the projects, but specified that payments had been 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 added that Monika Yanova's PR agency had been "our partner agency with which we cooperated".

On Wednesday, Ernst Strasser had a hearing by an inquiry committee of the Austrian parliament.

When asked about the EUR 100 000 fee, he said that he had dined with Stanishev once but he had never consulted representatives of the Bulgarian Interior Ministry.

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Tags: Monika Yanova, Sergey Stanishev, GERB, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, lobbyist, Peter Hochegger


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