A Bulgarian government minister has been charged with fraud in relation to European funds following an investigation into the possible misappropriation of tens of millions of euros for tourism development.
Alexander Manolev, who served as Deputy Economy Minister before resigning from his post, is accused of misusing 200,000 euros allocated for the development of rural tourism while he was deputy minister of Tourism, according to the Bulgarian Prosecutor-General’s office.
The money was used to finance a luxury villa “used exclusively by Mr. Manolev and his family”, near the seaside town of Sandanski, said the prosecutor’s spokeswoman, Roumiana Arnaudova.
The indictment comes as the prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into the allocation of 746 tourist guest houses built between 2007 and 2013 with 100 million euros of European funds.
The Prosecutor’s Office is also investigating the use of around one hundred vehicles and yachts that were also acquired with European funds for tourism purposes. Investigators “have strong doubts that they have been used in accordance with the stated purpose,” said Arnaudova.
Earlier this month Bulgaria’s bivol.bg investigative journalism website reported that a house used as a private dwelling on land owned by Manolev had received 200,000 euros from the EU development program.
The former minister denied that he owned the house, but resigned from office on April 17 as a result of the scandal.
The revelations of potential wrongdoing come as another blow for the government of the conservative prime minister Boyko Borissov, which has already been shaken by a series of scandals involving cheap real estate purchases by ministers and senior officials.
Bulgaria, along with Romania, remains under a strengthened monitoring mechanism imposed on it by Brussels when it joined the EU in 2007 to evaluate Sofia’s efforts to combat corruption and organised crime.