In late 2017, a company with no relevant experience acquired Varna TPP – back then Bulgaria’s second-largest thermal power plant – from Czech energy company, CEZ. At the time of the transaction, the Varna-based company Sigda was owned by the family of Danail Papazov, a former transport minister. In August 2018, Ahmed Dogan, honorary chairman of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) – a political party that is traditionally well-represented in Bulgaria’s National Assembly – acquired a majority stake in the power plant.
The mechanism of acquisition and the subsequent decisions of public bodies, which opened the doors to millions in state funding, raise a number of questions about the ability of institutions to defend the public interest in cases where significant material interest of influential figures are involved. This is precisely why, on 19 June 2019, ACF filed reports with four public institutions – the State Agency for National Security, the Ministry of Energy, the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission, and the National Revenue Agency. We call on the above-mentioned institutions to carry out exhaustive checks and to be transparent about the results.
Accesss to Public Information Request Sent to the Electricity System Operator (ESO)
The request aimed to find out what had motivated the Electricity System Operator to send a proposal to the Minister of Energy, recommending that cold reserve quotas for the summer of 2018 should be increased, as well as other steps ESO had taken with regards to the cold reserve.
Access to Public Information Request for Bulgartransgaz EAD
ACF asked whether a contract had been signed by the company and Varna TPP, as well as about the nature of the contract.
Access to Public Information Request to the Bulgarian National Bank
The request aimed to disclose information regarding a loan, provided by First Investment Bank (FiBank) to the Varna-based company Sigda OOD.
Access to Public Information Request sent to the Ministry of Energy
ACF was trying to follow up on media publications saying that with an order from early 2018, the ministry increased cold reserve quotas for the period 2018/2019. Another curious development was the decision of state-owned Maritza Iztok - 2 TPP to give up on its cold reserve contract for the period 1 April 2018 - 31 July 2018.
Access to Public Information Request to Maritza Iztok - 2 TPP
ACF asked what motivated the power plant's decision to give up on a cold reserve contract it had already won.
ESO Refused to Provide the Required Information
Bulgargas EAD Refused to Provide the Required Information
Reply by Bulgartransgas EAD
The company said it does not sign contracts with third parties and, therefore, had not signed a contract with Varna TPP.
The Bulgarian National Bank Refused to Provide the Required Information
Maritza Iztok - 2 TPP Refused to Provide the Required Information
Access to Public Information Request Sent to the Ministry of Energy
The request aimed to find out the reasons why Maritza Iztok - 2 TPP had given up on a contract it had already won and why the contract was then suspended.
Ministry of Energy Replied
The Ministry denied access to information on some items of the request, while for others - it referred ACF to Maritza Iztok - 2 TPP. In February 2019, ACF filed a case with the Administrative Court - Sofia, disputing the ministry's refusal to provide the required information.
ACF Challenges in Court the Decision of the Ministry of Energy to Deny Access to Information
The appeal was filed with the Administrative Court - Sofia.
ACF Sends Reports to Four Public Institutions
Reports sent to the State Agency for National Security, the Ministry of Energy, the Energy and Water Regulatory Commission, and the National Revenue Agency.
National Revenue Agency Replies
The agency's headquarters said the report would be handled by the Sofia branch.
The Energy and Water Regulatory Commission Replies
The commission found no reason to deprive Varna TPP of its license.
Administrative Court - Sofia Rules in ACF's Favour
Reply by the Ministry of Energy
Following a court order, the ministry did share some information. However, the shared information was different than what ACF had asked for.
State Agency for National Security Finds No Proof of Possible Threat to National Secutiry
Interview of Czech Senator Lukas Wagenknecht, demanding an investigation into the sale of Varna TPP
New Inquiry Sent to Ministry of Energy and National Revenue Agency
Noting that eight months have passed since our reports were filed, ACF asked the two institutions about any measures or steps they may have taken with regards to the case.
Pending Proceedings by the Specialized Prosecution Office
According to media publications, the Specialized Prosecution Office will start proceedings, following the report of Czech Senator Lukas Wagenknecht regarding the acquisition of Varna TPP.
National Revenue Agency Replies
The revenue agency said it has initiated financial audits of four individuals and three companies. The checks into Ahmed Dogan and the company Delta Epsilon, conducted so far, have not uncovered any violations of the tax legislation.
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