Bulgaria accused of 6 million EUR police vehicle fraud involving EU cash

vehicle fraud in Bulgaria

Investigators have called for a criminal probe to be opened into officials at Bulgaria’s interior ministry for alleged “abuse of power” after the alert by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).

The officials are accused of using EU money to purchase new vehicles for the police. The contract was for the delivery and maintenance of 290 all-terrain police patrol cars for a total of 13.9 million leva after VAT. The contractor is Bulgarian Automobile Industry EAD.

OLAF said Bulgaria had “violated the terms” of the grant by buying second-hand sport utility vehicles (SUVs) instead. It called for the European Commission to recover around 5.95 million EUR.

OLAF first launched an investigation in July 2018 after allegations of fraud and misappropriation of subsidies were made by the European Internal Security Fund. The Bulgarian public prosecutor’s office has been urged to open a criminal investigation for “abuse of power for the benefit of a third party” against ministry officials.

On Monday, Feb. 1, news agencies reported that the contract for the all-terrain vehicles was signed by then caretaker Interior Minister Plamen Ouzounov, who is now secretary to President Ruen Radev. The acting head of the specialized prosecution office would neither confirm nor deny that.

The same day the President’s Office slammed a report in 24 Chassa daily for writing that “OLAF suspects Plamen Ouzounov of corruption”. It said that the controversial contract for vehicle purchase was signed in February 2018 and not March 2017, as the story alleges, and that was after the tenure of the caretaker government in which Ouzounov was Interior Minister.

The dateline shows that the contract was signed under Valentin Radev (GERB), but the contracting procedure was opened, and the contractor picked under Ouzounov.

EU and national authorities can examine OLAF’s findings before deciding to follow up on the agency’s recommendations.

Tenders as targets and means of frauds

Public tenders are likely subjects of frauds and manipulations. Policies and procedures need to be put into place to ensure early fraud detection. Government departments and private companies are focusing extensively on implementing and extending risk, governance, and compliance systems.

The main objectives are to increase the entity’s ability to detect fraud early and implement adequate penalties and exposure for those found guilty of manipulating tenders.

A corporate investigation can be used for close identification of a tender’s part or its procedures.

- 02 February 2021 - fraud investigation