The Bulgarian environment minister has resigned after being arrested by anti-corruption investigators in relation to the illegal diversion of water that has left some 80,00 people with insufficient supplies of drinking water, Reuters reports.
Neno Dimov was placed in 24-hour custody on Thursday after an investigative report by Bivol.bg published documents showing the mismanagement that left the city of Pernik without potable water.
Significant quantities of water have been diverted from the Studena dam through an illegal canal, according to the website, which also reported that Dimov signed documents allowing the use of water for industrial purposes even as the reservoir reached critically low levels.
Prior to the former minister’s arrest, prosecutors raided the offices of the company managing Pernik’s water supply utility and Pernik’s municipal council. Irena Sokolova, a former district governor of Pernik and Ivan Vitanov, the suspended head of the water and sanitation company have also reportedly been questioned, according to the Sofia Globe website.
Since becoming environment minister in May 2017 Dimov has been at the centre of a number of scandals, including over his alleged involvement in a mafia-led scheme to illegally import Italian toxic waste into Bulgaria for incineration.
Environmental groups had already called for Dimov’s resignation after he tried to amend legislation that would allow the expansion of a ski resort, that campaigners said would damage the ecology of Pirin National Park, as well as an attempt to amend the Natura 2,000 ecological network to allow construction in protected areas.
He also strongly criticised for failing to put in place measures to tackle air pollution, leading the European Commission to lodge a complaint against the Bulgarian government.
In light of Dimov’s resignation, the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party has said that it will table a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Boiko Borisov’s Cabinet when the National Assembly resumes on January 20.