Former Bulgarian Minister Charged

resizer28BULGARIA

Former agriculture minister Valeri Tsvetanov has been officially charged with corruption offenses related to his time in office, it emerged Tuesday, hours after he was called for interrogation at the National Investigation Service.

Tsvetanov and Stefan Yurukov, the former head of the forestry agency, allegedly made illegal land swaps, in one of the most significant corruption scandals to have energed from the term of the previous Socialist-led government.

Tsvetanov has been interrogated on fifteen deals, backdated and sealed at the end of the term of the previous government, prosecutors said.

Yurukov is charged with sealing unprofitable deals worth BGN 4.5 million (about 2.2 million euros). Investigations are ongoing.

The news comes as the new centre-right government makes efforts to convince Brussels that it has set out on an all-out offensive against corruption and organised crime.

In his first European test, Prime Minister Boiko Borisov is leaving for Brussels on Wednesday, where he will present the case that Bulgaria is able to receive European aid without the need for concern regarding potential mass misappropriations.

The previous parliament imposed a ban on all land swaps in January, under pressure from dozens of environmental groups.

It was Borisov’s GERB party, backed by environmentalists, which raised the alarm over large-scale land swaps at the beginning of May.

They presented a list of the land swaps, the majority of which concern plots along the Black Sea coast and in mountain resorts. The state had set land prices at between BGN 0.24 (12 euro cents) to BGN 27 (13.80 euros) per square metre, far below the market price of 100 euros per square metre.

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