Bulgarian Ethnic Party Distributes EU Funds to Relatives

Atanas Tchobanov

An outrageous document signed by Atije Alieva-Veli, the former long-time Deputy Director of the State Fund Agriculture (SFA), the body in charge of distributing European Union (EU) funds for agriculture, reveals how these funds are handed to relatives and connected individuals. The case in question involves a project of the mother-in-law of Veli’s sister. Veli, as the person responsible for the allocation of EU funds, has signed the approval of the project. This is an obvious conflict of interest that has not been declared.

Alieva-Veli, a functionary of the party mostly representing the Muslim minority in Bulgaria, Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), is a native of the village of Borino, as is DPS leader Mustafa Karadayi. She has a sister, Shassine, who, like her, is married to a member of the Veli family, Jamal. Jamal’s mother is Djemile Veli, owner of the company “Djemile Veli”, established in 2012 apparently with the sole purpose of applying for an EU subsidy that cannot be granted to an individual.

A grant agreement of BGN 25,596 was signed in 2014. The notification letter of approval to Djemile Veli has been signed by Atije Veli in her capacity as Deputy Director of SFA.

The amount is not large but the case illustrates the systemic violations in the SFA and how DPS controls the allocation of EU funds for agriculture.

“Guesthouse” Queen

Atije Veli is the SFA Deputy Director who signed and approved the scandalous “guesthouse” projects of politicians, mayors and their relatives. The most striking distribution of European money happened in that same village of Borino where Bivol exposed five projects for guesthouses built by relatives of Mustafa Karadayi.

In fact, companies related to Mustafa Karadayi own half of the guesthouses in the Borino municipality financed with European money. Apart from that, Karadayi’s mother runs a family hotel in Borino built with money from the SAPARD program.

The list of sanctioned projects published by the SFA after its inspections and probes by the Prosecutor’s Office and in response to a journalistic inquiry by Bivol revealed that Karaday’s relatives would not be asked to return the SFA subsidy. The two bodies failed to notice a conflict of interest and evidence of peddling influence in these projects.

The SFA has conveniently limited the scope of its inspections only to houses for which the five-year monitoring period that starts after the signing of the contract has not expired. This contradicts the order of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov to the SFA from April 30, 2019 to inspect all of the guesthouses and refer the culprits, if such are found, to the Prosecutor’s Office.

Bivol also revealed that scandalous projects, which were supposed to be reported to the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF and to the Prosecutor’s Office, had been concealed by a commission in the SFA chaired by Atidje Veli. One of them is a project of Dessislava Nikolova, the mother of Christian Nikolov, the young man who high on illegal drugs crashed his powerful SUV into the car of popular Bulgarian journalist Milen Tsvetkov, killing him on the spot in April 2020.

In 2015, at the time when Veli was Deputy Director of the SFA, her father Bayryam Aliev acquired an apartment of 164 square meters plus a garage of 30 square meters in a luxury building in the “Manastirski Livadi” district in the capital Sofia. The price of these properties is quite advantageous, as they cost only EUR 568 per square meter. Similar apartments in “Manastirski Livadi” cost about EUR 800 per square meter at the time of the purchase.

Still, the most important issue is not the price but the origin of Bayryam Aliev’s money as he paid BGN 215,000 for the acquisition. He has never owned companies, never held a highly paid job, has not sold properties and has not taken a mortgage loan. Atije’s mother has worked as a teacher in the village Borino, which does not imply significant earnings as well. Simple math shows that the family would have to save BGN 500 a month for 40 years to afford such an apartment.

After Bivol’s revelation of the suspicious acquisition, the civil association BOETS (Fighter) alerted the Prosecutor’s Office, which, however, did not see any problem with the property deal and closed its probe.

Meanwhile, Atije Veli became a MEP on the DPS ballot and is now involved in lawmaking at European level in European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee.

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