On April 1, the European Prosecutor’s Office raided in Sofia to investigate possible corruption and misuse of funds provided by the EU to restore the city’s historic centres, including iconic yellow ceilings.
The charges in this codenamed Yellow Brick Road investigation relate to the mismanagement of funds allocated to the Metropolitan Municipality to repair the elder city centre, co-financed by European Regional Development Fund, and possible corruption, with an estimated damage of at least 3 million euros.
The European Prosecutor’s Office began this investigation “officially” in the fall of 2022. based on media reports. Under scrutiny by the European Prosecutor’s Office, contracts were signed between the Metropolitan Municipality and two commercial companies after public procurement was conducted.
According to the investigation in 2018. the first contract was signed to restore the central part of Sofia (including Tsar Osvoboditel Boulevard and Narodno Sobranie Square).
Two years later, though, in 2020, when several payments had already been made, the contract was terminated by mutual agreement. The reason is a discrepancy between the terms of the contract and the investment project.
It was also noted that construction actions potentially caused impairment to the Central Military Club in Sofia, built-in 1907. , which has historical value. Despite that, about 3 million euros (6 million lv. ) are paid to the performer, with no overdue fees.
Following the termination of the contract, the municipality signed the latest agreement with another contractor under the same conditions.
The new contractor has demanded a down payment of around 750,000 euros (1.5 million BGN) to restore the centuries-old yellow ceilings in the city centre, which the Cultural Heritage Act protects. This amount has yet to be paid until the situation is investigated.
However, the technical expertise requested by the MRRB found that the ceilings needed to be better laid. There were cracks—the poor quality of rehabilitating the iconic ceilings dating back to 1908.
The lack of checks by the Metropolitan Municipality could generate additional costs, according to financial documents provided to the European Prosecutor’s Office.
According to the investigation, the contractors were presented with false documents with incorrect information asserting that the works were performed following specifications, leading to unlawful payments.
The GDBOP carries out today’s searches and searches operations in five locations. For the purposes of the investigation, the police seized documentation and electronic evidence related to the implementation of the project.