Bulgarian Prosecution Squashes ‘Guesthouse’ Probes

Atanas Tchobanov

The Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office probes into guesthouses financed with European money do not examine at all whether the guesthouses are used for accommodations of guests or for private purposes. This emerges from several prosecutorial decrees for refusals to launch pre-trial proceedings, available to Bivol.

In order to make a decision, the respective prosecutor receives and examines police preliminary data. The data should include the number of overnight stays, information from the National Social Security Institute (NSSI) on the number of employees and other indications that the houses are used as a family hotel and follow the business plan, or vice versa – they do not operate as such but are used for the personal needs of the beneficiaries.

However, prosecutors do not consider this data at all and instead approach it formally, verifying only that the company meets the criteria for receiving the subsidy described in the regulations of the State Fund Agriculture (SFA). However, violations involving the use of guesthouses as private villas occur after the disbursement of the subsidy. The criteria for fulfilling the goals of the program are described in the same regulations and their non-fulfillment is a direct violation under art.254b, para 1, of the Penal Code.

There is also no sign of checking the company’s turnover from overnight stays, the number of registered guests, employees and their wages, and everything else that shapes the implementation of the business plan and the purpose of the European subsidy – to set up a small hotel business in rural areas. No neighbors have been questioned and even the beneficiary himself in the scope of the probes.

Thus, after months of probes into a total of 746 guesthouses funded by the European Union, the Prosecutor’s Office boasted about only 21 files that had turned into pre-trial proceedings, most of them in the capital Sofia – 11, three in the city of Montana, two in the city of Veliko Tarnovo, and one each in the cities of Pazardzhik, Haskovo, Varna, Pleven, Silistra, and Yambol. There is also an indictment against former Deputy Minister Alexander Manolev, whose guesthouse, used as a private villa, was uncovered in an investigation by Bivol and the site Blagoevgrad News.

One of the documents available to Bivol is a decree of a district attorney who refuses to initiate pre-trial proceedings after inspecting a guesthouse. It gives a clear idea of the form approach to squashing the probe.

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