Bribery scandal in Bulgarian roads

16 April 2008

A bribery scandal involving two civil servants is threatening to bring major road construction projects to a halt in Bulgaria. The European Commission has asked for funds to be frozen pending investigations. Chris Sleight reports.

Two directors of Bulgaria's state-owned National Road Infrastructure Fund (NRIF) have been arrested after reportedly being caught taking bribes. Lyubomir Lilov, director of utilisation of EU funds and Ivan Vladimirov, a member of his staff responsible for projects under the EU's Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession (ISPA) programme were reportedly caught receiving BGN 25000 (€ 12800).

As a result of the arrests, which were apparently made following a tip-off from an unnamed person who Mr Lilov and Mr Vladimirov had allegedly solicited the bribe from, the European Commission has asked for all payments to NRIF to be frozen.

A statement from the Commission said, "The Commission had been informed that two high-level officials from an agency dealing with road infrastructure projects have been arrested on charges of receiving bribes on contracts.

"The Commission has written to the Bulgarian Ministry of Finance asking it not to certify any expenditure before the case is resolved, and not to sign any new contracts with the agency. The Commission has written to OLAF (the European Anti-Fraud Office) regarding the situation."

Following the arrests in late January, Bulgaria's various opposition leaders have made moves to initiate a no-confidence vote in the country's three-party coalition government.

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