Valentin Dimitrov, the mayor of General Toshevo, a town in north-east Bulgaria who is a member of the Bulgarian Socialist Party, was released on 5,000 euros bail on Thursday after being arrested the previous day on the request of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office in Sofia.
Dimitrov is being probed for alleged subsidy fraud involving a project for increasing energy efficiency in social housing between 2017 and 2019.
Public officials including the mayor who were involved in the project, which had a budget of 169,000 euros, allegedly presented false information about its implementation. The work was also not finished by the set deadline.
This is the first time that the European Public Prosecutor’s Office has investigated a mayor in Bulgaria.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party voiced its support for Dimitrov and even used the occasion to announce that he will run for a third consecutive mandate in the upcoming mayoral elections.
“We’re treating the arrest of the mayor of General Toshevo as a political provocation in light of the local elections,” the Socialist Party said in a statement on Thursday.
Locals residents and supporters of the Socialist Party in the town, where little over 7,000 people live, protested against Dimitrov’s arrest on Wednesday.
He has so far refrained from commenting on the case, only saying to local media upon his release that “it’s all worth the fight for those people here”.
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office’s actions follow European Chief Prosecutor Laura Kovesi’s visit to Sofia in March last year which was focused on preventing malpractices involving EU funds.
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office’s 2022 report disclosed that 143 cases of mismanagement of funds are currently being investigated.
The mayoral elections in Bulgaria are scheduled for October 29.
The Bulgarian Socialist Party is traditionally aligned to Moscow and a successor to the pre-1989 Communist Party.
In other stances the party has taken in the run-up to the elections, it recently opposed amendments in the Law Against Domestic Violence in light of a recent case of a gender-based violence. On Wednesday it also joined protests against possible plans for the removal of one Sofia’s major Soviet-era monuments.
Source : Balkan Insight