Europe

Bulgarians jailed over EU farm aid fraud

Euro notes - file pic
Image caption The EU has put pressure on Bulgaria to crack down on corruption

A court in Bulgaria has jailed a local businessman and his wife for embezzling 7.5m euros (£6m; $9.2m) of EU farm aid.

Mario Nikolov had earlier appealed against a separate 10-year sentence he received in March for money-laundering. He will now serve a 12-year term.

His wife Mariana was jailed for five years for her role in the fraud and four accomplices got 10 years each.

The group had pocketed EU funds by importing old meat processing equipment which they had declared as "new".

They used forged documents to siphon off funds from the EU's Sapard programme, which targets agriculture in new member states in Eastern Europe.

Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in January 2007.

The Sofia court's ruling on Wednesday also said half of the guilty defendants' property would be seized.

The trial followed an investigation begun by the EU's anti-fraud office Olaf in 2006, the sofiaecho.com news website reported.

In 2008 the European Commission suspended about 500m euros-worth of EU aid to Bulgaria because of concerns about corruption and organised crime.

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