EC 'Intrigued' by Bulgaria's Notorious SAPARD Case

Bulgaria in EU | September 22, 2012, Saturday // 11:00|  views

The Sofia Court of Appeals acquitted on all counts shady businessman Mario Nikolov. Photo by BGNES

The European Commission is going to follow with great interest the future developments in Bulgaria's so-called SAPARD case for the draining of EUR millions of EU funds.

The statement was made by the EC spokesperson Mark Gray, speaking in an interview for the Bulgarian National Radio, BNR. He stressed the trial is among the key ones used by Brussels to assess the country's progress in the fight against corruption and abuse of EU funds.

Gray spoke on the heels of the Sofia Court of Appeals acquitting on all charges Bulgarian "businessman" Mario Nikolov and the other defendants in the high-profile SAPARD money laundering case.

On Wednesday, prosecutors requested guilty verdicts for Nikolov, his wife Mariana, Lyudmil Stoykov, Ana Sharkova, Valentin Angelov, Lazarina Georgieva and Ivan Ivanov. They were charged with participating in an organized crime group engaged in laundering EUR 7.5 M drained from the EU agriculture program SAPARD.

However, the Sofia Court of Appeals found them not guilty.

On March 29 2010, the Sofia City Court sentenced Nikolov to 10 years behind bars and his wife, Mariana, to 8 years in the notorious SAPARD case. The two were charged, along with Lyudmil Stoykov, with laundering the money drained from SAPARD. Stoykov was acquitted by the Court.

In June 2010 Bulgaria's Sofia City Court sentenced Nikolov to 12 years in prison, and five other accomplices to smaller sentences for draining EUR 7.5 M of SAPARD funds.

However, upon the appeal of the sentence, the Sofia Court of Appeals determined that there were a number of procedural breaches and unclear facts in the proceedings.

The legal process against Nikolov was provoked by revelations of EU anti-fraud body OLAF, according to which a group of 60 Bulgarian, foreign and offshore organizations had participated in tax fraud and money laundering.

Nikolov and Stoykov were both sponsors of former President Georgi Parvanov's campaign for his second term in office.

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Tags: Mario Nikolov, SAPARD, EU funds, fraud, money laundering, EU, OLAF, Supreme Administrative Court, Supreme Judicial Council, Sofia City Court, Sofia Court of Appeals, Mark Gray, Lyudmil Stoykov, embezzlement, European Commission, EU funds, corruption, abuse


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