Why two journalists investigating EU funds fraud were arrested in Bulgaria

In the evening of September 13, 2018 IJ4EU grantees and journalists Dimitar Stoyanov of Bivol and Attila Biro of Rise Romania were arrested in Bulgaria where they are investigating EU funds fraud. 5 questions to the Atanas Tchobanov, editor-in-chief of

Dimitar Stoyanov Former ECPMF Journalist-in-Residence Dimitar Stoyanov (r) and his colleague Attila Biro were arrested when they tried to prevent the destruction of files in an EU funds fraud investigation (copyright: Bivol/NDR/Zapp)

What happened?

Atanas Tchobanov: Dimitar Stoyanov from and Attila Biro from Rise Romania were working on a massive EU funds fraud case. The first part of the investigation was published Wednesday morning.*

The case is linking high profile oligarchs and political persons to corruption. After we published, we got the information that documents and computers are taken away from the offices of the companies exposed in our investigation. We alerted the Anti-Mafia Police immediately on Wednesday. 

Yesterday evening we got the information that documents are being burned in a field near the small village of Egalnica, in the town of Radomir. We alerted the Anti-Mafia Police again, we gave them the coordinates, and Dimitar and Attila headed to the place to save what could be saved of the evidence. When they arrived on site, police jumped on them right where the shredded documents, most likely evidence of fraud with European funds, were deposited.

Dimitar and Attila stated that they are journalists but the police did not care at first. They were kept in handcuffs in the field for more than an hour. Later smarter cops from Sofia arrived and after a while things got clarified. However the two remained excommunicado for 4 hours.

How are Dimitar Stoyanov and Attila Biro now?

Sleepless, but fine. And combative. Attila even wants to return to the place to save more documents.

What is your view on what happened? Was it small town police men unable to cope with the situation or a systematic press freedom violation?

Friday morning Anti-Mafia Police chief Yvailo Spiridonov called me and presented excuses for the situation and the detention. However, we regret the lack of good will, reliable information and professionalism of the local and national police and we remain suspicious about the efficiency of the Anti-Mafia Police, given the fact that from Wednesday morning until Thursday evening the destruction of document continued without any intervention.

All night the desk was trying in vain to obtain information about the location of Dimitar and Attila from the local and national police. Even worse, we got missleading information from the National Police press office. We attribute this to the lack of professionalism of the police, bad communication and messy priorities.

Instead of helping to save the evidence and documents from burning, the cops were occupied to question our guys for hours.

Arrest warrant Dimitar Stoyanov The arrest warrant of Dimitar Stoyanov and Attila Biro after they were detained while investigating EU funds fraud in Bulgaria (copyright: Bivol)

Did they also arrest the poeple who burned the evidence? 

No, they didn't come this night. We don't have information if the offices have been searched so far.

What is next? Is there any reaction from the Bulgarian authorities?

The Ministry of Interior denies any detention, but we have the arrest warrants of 24 hours. However, after bold intervention by the Romanian Consul, Dimitar and Attila were released 4 am in the morning (arrest warrants attached). So, they remained in detention from September 13th, 9 pm to September, 14th 4 am.

The Bulgarian Ombudsman Maya Manolova issued a statement on Facebook, that Dimitar and Attila's rights have been violated. Local media are interested in the case and we already gave a couple of radio and TV interviews. 

And, we are working on the follow-up of the investigation.


"#GPGate: Consultancy Companies Involved in Grand Corruption with EU Funds and Public Procurement" This investigation is part of the IJ4EU funded project “Exposing fraud in EU-funded projects in Romania and Bulgaria” by Bivol and Rise Romania

A longer read of what happened please find here

Please find here the statement of