EPPO investigates multi-million euro fraud in Bulgaria
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) is investigating a possible fraud case after they discovered a private company knowingly submitted false data for their annual reports in order to under-declare their emissions output under the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).
A private company responsible for verifying the greenhouse gas emissions of thermal power plants and heating plants in Bulgaria is under investigation for allegedly submitting falsified reports to the competent national authorities.
According to the investigation, from 2017 until today, the company knowingly submitted false data and documentation for the annual reports on greenhouse gas emissions produced by thermal power plants and heating plants in Bulgaria, in order to under-declare their emissions output, under the EU ETS.
It is estimated that the under-declared emissions submitted to the national authorities resulted in losses to the EU and national budgets of millions of euros, in unpaid amounts for actually-consumed greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the under-reported emissions also had an impact on the air quality in Bulgaria.
Over 40 searches were carried out in 11 Bulgarian cities. The investigative officers have seized mobile phones, laptops and voluminous documentation related to the investigation. The investigative activities are still ongoing.
Dozens of searches and investigative measures were carried out on Monday, the EPPO announced. They come only a week after media, including EURACTIV, reported that EPPO was experiencing staffing problems, with some EU-delegated prosecutors that began working on VAT and EU money fraud cases in Bulgaria leaving the office, and others already applying for other jobs.
The power plants’ ownership has been connected to the energy oligarch Hristo Kovachki by various media reports. Officially, he is their consultant.
Interior Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev refused to give additional information while the operation is ongoing. He said that the investigation has been going on for more than a month. “We have been working on the investigation for quite some time under the guidance and with the instructions of the ЕPPO. I am satisfied with the level of interaction here. Our work is done, it’s done precisely,” Demerdzhiev told Bulgarian national radio.
The legal consultant of one of the searched thermal power plants, Julian Semerdzhiev, explained that it will continue its activities in normal production mode. He added that the company cooperates with the investigators. “At the moment, there are no problems, neither environmental, nor technical, nor anything else that worries us. We are also not concerned about the inspection itself. We explained to the inspectors that we will provide them with full assistance”, he said and expressed fears that the action could be because of the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The EU ETS is one of the EU’s key climate change mitigation policies, and it is the world’s first carbon market. It aims at providing an efficient mechanism for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under the EU ETS, companies need to obtain emissions allowances covering their carbon emissions.
(Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)