Railway projects valued at €250m are set to be suspended
By Catrin Jones24 August 2023
The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has put forth a recommendation to halt the €140 million renovation project for the Kostenets-Septemvri railway in Bulgaria, while also advocating for the reclamation of the €38 million that has already been disbursed.
This action is prompted by irregularities detected during the procurement process and the execution of the project.
The investigation, conducted in collaboration with the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), has unveiled that two of the awarded contractors either lacked the necessary technical capabilities to execute the project or had provided inaccurate information about their financial situation.
As outlined in the official statement by OLAF, the investigation by EPPO is ongoing and is primarily focused on potential criminal transgressions, including instances of money laundering, tied to a second railway undertaking (Orizovo-Mihaylovo), valued at around €111 million and backed by the Cohesion Fund.
The National Railway Infrastructure Company of Bulgaria serves as the beneficiary for both projects, with involvement from foreign contracting firms, some of which have already faced allegations of mismanaging EU funds.
Previously, EPPO, in collaboration with over 100 local law enforcement officers and national security agents, conducted searches across numerous locations within the country. EPPO subsequently revealed that certain contractors had engaged in “fictitious money transfers to a network of shell companies,” leading to the withdrawal of approximately €2.5 million in cash by individuals with prior criminal records.
Two individuals have already been apprehended in connection to these matters.