Prosecutor Builds Vacation Home on Black Sea Coast with EU Money

Villa “Annie” in the village of Velika on the southern Bulgarian Black Sea coast is financed by BGN 186,830 under the European Union (EU) Rural Development Program (RDP). The beneficiary is the company NEDA AVRAMOVA – NEDA. The sole owner of the company is Neda Krassimirova Avramova, sister of Blagoevgrad’s prosecutor Anna Krassimirova Avramova-Gradeva. The land on which the villa is built belongs to Avramova’s husband – Galin Gradev, who is a senior expert in the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy (MLSP). The villa does not operate as a guesthouse, and it is occupied only during the summer by Gradev’s family and their friends.

Hello, I am calling for a reservation at Villa “Annie” for Easter, is it possible? – No, there is no possibility. “And for later, May?” “Still not possible, there’s nobody there in May. Only during the summer. – During the summer, when? From June on? – Yes, from June on. – Who am I talking to? – Galin Gradev is my name.

This conversation was held on Friday, April 19, by a correspondent of Bivol, who dialed the phone number for contacts, +359 88 766 8771, listed on the Facebook page of “Sea Villas Annie” in the village of Velika. The site has not been upgraded since 2016. However, even if the villa is only accepting summer holidaymakers, which is not certain, there is a clear violation of the rules of the RDP.

The idea of European funding for guesthouses is to support regions with lack of modern infrastructure and insufficient bed capacity to create employment, sustainable livelihood and develop the tourism business. The village of Velika, which is a popular holiday destination on the sea, has no problem with depopulation and livelihood, on the contrary. However, the State Fund Agriculture (SFA), the body in charge of distributing the EU funds, has approved subsidies for a total of 12 projects for guesthouses right there.

Galin Gradev acquired the land with an area of 560 square meters with an old house of 38 square meters in the village of Velika in 2009. The price was only BGN 4,522. The new house, paid with EU money, was built after he established the right to build for his sister-in-law Neda Avramova in 2013 for a “three-story massive building with a built-up area of 95.81 square meters and a total area of 319.87 square meters”. The sister-in-law successfully applied for EU financing and a three-story house replaced the old shack.

Since its incorporation, Neda Avramova’s firm has reported BGN 9,000 in revenue, meaning that the objectives of the funding program have not been met. There is no staff in the villa, and the company has only one employee with health and retirement benefits.

Bivol sent questions to the Prosecutor’s Office, the MLSP and the SFA. We asked whether this arrangement for absorbing EU funds by empowered persons did not put them in a situation of conflict of interest and abuse of power. We did not receive a response by the editorial closure of this publication.

As early as 2017, Bivol mapped the guesthouses for which there are suspicions of them not being used for the purpose, but are actually private villas registered to the relatives of senior officials. Based on employee data, we found that about 300 houses out of a total of the 750 funded with EU money are used privately. Our investigation into these fake guesthouses was entered into the “Black Book of Government Waste”, but both OLAF and the Prosecutor’s Office failed to launch a systematic probe into all sites financed through the RDP.

One of the most infamous “guesthouses” is that of the former senior employee of the SFA Yanaki Chervenyakov, who was fired after Bivol exposed his lavish lifestyle. At that time, the National Security Agency (DANS) raided the SFA offices, but so far, there is no evidence of criminal proceedings for abuses in the Fund. Its former Director, Rumen Porozhanov, even received a promotion and became Minister of Agriculture.

Last week’s investigation by Bivol revealed that the Deputy Minister of Economy Alexander Manolev is using one of these guesthouses. He resigned, and the Prosecutor’s Office launched pre-trial proceedings for abuse of EU funds.

The interception of empowered individuals with such houses is possible thanks to Bivol’s information platform, which contains data on the declarations of these people, the EU subsidies, the Trade Register and the public procurement. The latest addition to it is the information on magistrates’ declarations for 2017 and 2018, which is currently maintained by the Inspectorate at the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) and is incomplete – more than 500 declarations are missing. The work of our investigative team on the disclosure of “guesthouses for mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law” continues.

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