Eight officials at Bulgaria’s children treatment fund arrested

Eight officials at Bulgaria’s children treatment fund arrested

Sofia, April 20, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe

Bulgarian police have arrested eight officials at the Health Ministry’s fund for treatment of children abroad, including the fund’s director Pavel Alexandrov, on suspicion of participating in an organised crime group that engaged in mismanagement and corruption, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement on April 20.

Prosecutors from the specialised prosecutor’s office, a unit tasked with probing high-profile cases of suspected corruption, and police officers from the Interior Ministry’s chief directorate for combatting organised crime raided the fund’s offices in Sofia on April 20.

The prosecution statement said that the premises were being searched, giving no further details, but added that more information was expected to be made public on April 21. Alexandrov and seven other officials were detained for 24 hours.

Several media reports said that the raid came on the day that the fund was due to hold a meeting of its civil council, a group that has a say in deciding which cases can benefit from government assistance. As the council’s members include several reporters, the raid prompted heightened media attention, one report said.

The council’s meeting, which was due to examine dozens of cases of patients seeking financial aid – the fund’s mission is to allocate government funding to children who suffer from conditions that cannot be treated in Bulgaria – had been postponed.

According to public broadcaster Bulgarian National Radio, the investigation against the fund’s officials had started more than two months ago. News website Mediapool.bg said that the initial formal request for a probe came from Health Minister Petar Moskov.

Alexandrov was re-instated as the fund’s director in 2014, a year after being sacked by the now-departed Plamen Oresharski administration.