Bulgarian prosecutors file indictment against defence minister

By bne IntelliNews January 16, 2017

The Sofia city prosecutor’s office filed indictment with Sofia city court against outgoing Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev over his alleged failure to ensure aviation safety and the airworthiness of Bulgarian fighter aircraft, a notice on the website of the prosecutor’s office said on January 16.

In recent months, charges have been announced against several members of the first and second (now outgoing) governments led by Prime Minister Boyko Borissov.

On November 21, outgoing Health Minister Petar Moskov was indicted over the exchange of vaccines between Bulgaria and Turkey. In December and January, charges were also announced against two members of Borissov’s first cabinet – former Minister of Economy Traicho Traikov and former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Simeon Dyankov – in connection with the sale of a residual minority state stake in electricity distribution company EVN Bulgaria Elektrorazpredelenie. Bulgarian businessman Ivo Prokopiev was also indicted in this case.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor’s investigation into Nenchev found that in April 2015 Bulgaria’s defence ministry and Russian corporation RSK MiG signed two contracts for extending the life of two jet engines, as well as the repair of two other jet engines and other equipment, all used by Bulgaria’s Soviet-made MiG-29 jet fighters. The value of the deal was €3.77mn. However, after the signing Nenchev repeatedly instructed his subordinates to ignore the contracts and not implement them, the prosecutor’s office said.

The prosecutors also allege that in the period November 2014 – March 2016, the minister failed to perform his duties by failing to confirm a project for investment spending on the repair of units and supply of spare parts for MiG-29s.

The prosecutor’s office claims that Nenchev’s actions resulted in significant negative consequences for the army, including reduced flight time for air force pilots, fewer prepared pilots and the inability to train young MiG-29 pilots.

In 2015 and 2016, Nenchev worked on other options, and in November 2015 Bulgaria’s parliament ratified a €6.1mn contract with Poland for the repair of six MiG-29 engines, which has already been completed. Shortly before the ratification, RSK MiG had warned that it would sue Bulgaria if the contract with Poland went ahead, saying that Bulgaria and Russia had an agreement on intellectual property, and there is such property in the engines.

In the end Bulgaria had to resort to the original manufacturer, RSK MiG. In November 2016, the Balkan country’s defence ministry signed a BGN42.7mn (€21.8mn, VAT not included) contract to buy 10 MiG-29 engines, to be delivered by the Bulgarian company Aviostart, which will purchase them from the Russian corporation.

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