Bulgaria Issued 6 Convictions in 6 Years on OLAF Investigations

Bulgaria in EU | July 3, 2012, Tuesday // 15:45|  views

Photo by tlaka.com

Bulgarian judicial authorities have not come up with decisions on 62% of the actions transferred by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) in the period 2006 – 2011, according to OLAF's annual report for 2011.

In the period 2006 – 2011, Bulgaria only registered 6 convictions on OLAF investigations.

According to the document, the investigating authorities in Bulgaria are substantially less efficient than their counterparts in other EU countries in terms of reaching convictions.

The average EU share of OLAF trials that ended with an at least first instance verdict is 45.7%, while in Bulgaria the share is 37.8%.

The top performers are Finland (100% of the investigations ended with a verdict), Lithuania (100%) and Sweden (80%).

During the period covered by the report, Finland ended 11 out of its 12 cases involving EU funds fraud.

In Bulgaria, 23 OLAF cases (62.2%) are still pending and have not yet reached a first instance verdict, 14 are about to reach the stage of a final verdict and only 6 have been closed with a final verdict.

Bulgarian investigating and court authorities are much slower than their counterparts in Romania, which is also subject to judicial monitoring by the European Commission.

Romania has much more cases involving EU funds fraud – 225, compared to Bulgaria's 37.

Romanian courts issued final verdicts on 30 cases, 128 cases reached the stage of first or second instance verdict and only 97 (43.1%) are pending.

Bulgaria is also strongly represented in the "case examples" section of the report.

Out of a total of two cases explained, one involves Bulgaria.

The case involves the cancelled EU funding for the construction of flue-gas desulfurization plants for units 5 and 6 of the Maritsa Iztok 2 Thermal Power Plant.

The central allegations in the case were that the consortium that had won the tender had misrepresented its qualifications and eligible experience in the specialised sector concerned.

The EU funding of EUR M allocated for the project was cancelled, which blocked a EUR 25 M loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Bulgaria had to return to the EU budget a sum of EUR 7 M that had already been spent on the project.

Bulgaria is also mentioned in a section of the report devoted to curbing cigarette smuggling along the EU eastern border.

In its overall estimate of the phenomenon, OLAF says that plants for cigarette factories in the region are one of the main factors contributing to the large-scale smuggling of tobacco

OLAF cautions that the exchange of operational information between competent authorities in the region is not always sufficient, and corruption is a prevalent problem at the eastern border, which smugglers often use to cover their illegal activities.

Bulgaria is also mentioned as a participant in a targeted regional meeting organized by OLAF in June 2011 in Bucharest devoted to cigarette smuggling.

In February 2011, Giovanni Kessler, Director General of the EU's Anti-Fraud Office, visited Bulgaria and presented a more detailed picture of Bulgaria's place in OLAF statistic.

The data made clear that OLAF was mainly handling signals involving Bulgaria.

In the period 2009 – 2011, Bulgaria topped OLAF rankings for tip-offs for EU funds fraud.

In 2010, 13.1% of the total of the 705 signals transmitted to OLAF by all EU countries were against Bulgaria.

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Tags: OLAF, EU funds fraud, convictions, judicial system, European Commission, Romania, verdict, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, EBRD, Maritsa Iztok 2, thermal power plant


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