Bulgaria’s Zemen municipality is very active in the use of European Union funds. This is what people from the State Fund Agriculture (SFA) told us when we asked about the activities of Zemen Mayor Dimitar Sotirov. In the last local elections, he was supported by the ruling Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party. He has a colorful personality. He is also father-in-law of the well-known construction businessman Dimitar Barbukov.

According to SFA, so far the Zemen municipality has realized a dozen projects – most of them through the so-called Local Initiative Group Radomir, Zemen, Kovachevtsi. However, there are four projects under the Program for Rural Area Development for which there is no way, but to attract our attention. Sotirov says about them that they are under “direct negotiations with the Fund”, whatever that means. The tourist information center in Zemen is located in an existing building – a former tourist dormitory of 158 square meters. And there would be nothing alarming here if the building had not been renovated for more than 240,000 levs without Value Added Tax (VAT). In reality, changing the roof, installing new window and door frames, isolation, tiles and plasterboard cost more than 770 euros per square meter according to even the roughest estimates. This money would be enough for the construction of two new buildings with the same area. The municipality has also created an eco-trail with four camping sites for over 300,000 levs. Where exactly were the funds invested is a mystery.

These two projects are implemented by the company HUFU. And just because of this contractor, the projects have been noticed by Simeon Daskalov. The man has a conflict with the company over a facility he contracted them to build as an investor. However, the project ended in failure. When Daskalov noticed that HUFU is winning bids in Zemen, he started to monitor the activities of the municipality. Then Zemen announced a public tender for the renovation of the municipal stadium. Daskalov assigned authorized experts to calculate the value of the works set in the latter public tender. He announced that he will participate in the tender. Experts gave him two appraisals. One was for 730,000 les, the second for about a million. The municipality awarded the contract for over 3.45 million levs.

In this situation, Daskalov approached the competent institutions. According to the prosecution, however, there is no problem. Then the man turned to the media. In the course of our investigation, we also encountered a fourth contract for an outdoor gym for 44,000 levs. Companies involved in the construction of outdoor sports grounds offered to build an identical facility for 10-12,000 levs. Any comment beyond these facts is unnecessary

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See here the comment on the “Zemen” Affair of Eleonora Nikolova, Director of the Center for Prevention and Countering Corruption and Organized Crime (BORKOR).

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