According to a survey by the news site Mediapool, the company “Eco Tradex Group”, based in Bulgaria’s southern city of Haskovo, is in the top three companies that took most money from the program for retrofitting the outside walls of apartment buildings in the country. It has several partners, while one of them, Daniel Gargov, is the husband of the first cousin of Delyan Dobrev, former lawmaker and Energy Minister from the center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) which just won Bulgarian general elections for the third time.
Gargov is also a municipal councilor from GERB in the Haskovo City Hall and Chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee. Dobrev’s cousin and Gargov’s wife, Rositsa Gargova, on her part, occupies the key position of Director of “Financial and Accounting Activities and Budget” in the Haskovo Municipality. This way, the public finances of the municipality are controlled by one family. Moreover, companies with Gargov’s participation have won public contracts for over 100 million levs.
The company “Forukom” JSC, whose shareholders are Daniel Gargov with 30% and Tencho Lilyanov with 70%, is a majority shareholder in “Eco Tradex Group”. Tencho Lilyanov rose to fame after his arrest in 1999 over a large consignment of contraband cigarettes. Gargov, who, according to the publication of Mediapool, has started his business with currency exchange offices, has also attracted media attention over the infamous land swaps in the country.
Delyan Dobrev, himself, before becoming a GERB MP, has headed the board of another company with a similar name – “Forukom Real Estate Fund”. According to documents from the Trade Register, both, Tencho Lilyanov and Rositsa Gargova, have been among the company’s managers.
100 million in public procurement
A check in the Public Procurement Register shows that companies with the participation of Gargov and Lilyanov have won individually or in consortia public contracts for nearly 100 million levs. Most of the money has gone to Eco Tradex Group – 83 million levs. Eco-Neo Group has taken 16 million. “Forukom” has participated in a consortium and has won a contract for 3 million levs in the town of Parvomay. Part of these successful bids, however, has concluded before Delyan Dobrev becoming a factor in politics.
The flagship company, “Eco Tradex Group”, works mainly, but not only, in municipalities with mayors from GERB, the data analysis reveals. For example, some of the contracts are in the Smolyan Municipality. The cleaning of the Rhodope Mountain municipalities has been entrusted to another company with the participation of “Forukom” – “Titan Cleaner”. Some time ago, municipal councilors from Smolyan warned that the contract for services, signed by then-Mayor from the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) and now MP, Dora Yankova, is unprofitable and the municipality is being drained. “Titan Cleaner” has won contracts totaling over 10 million levs.
All Bivol’s efforts to reach Dobrev for comment were unsuccessful this far. Cousin Rositsa did not answer her office phone. We are also expecting a comment on a possible conflict of interest from the PR office of GERB *. Under the Law on the Prevention and Detection of Conflicts of Interest, all of the above should not be a problem for Delyan Dobrev, as this law does not require including cousins in property declarations. However, the concentration of power in one family in the municipality of Haskovo is striking.
The former Energy Minister is one of the most ardent supporters of the National Program for Energy Efficiency of Residential Buildings, initiated by GERB. In a recent interview with 24 Hours daily, he praised the program and promised it would be extended to smaller municipalities, which will inevitably expand the profits the cousin’s family.
*Updated at 4:30 pm on March 22, 2017 – the press center of GERB confirmed the information that Rosica Gargova is a first cousin of Delyan Dobrev. To the question “do you think there is a potential conflict of interest”, the answer was “no.”
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