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Bulgarian minister resigns after accused of wasting public funds

AFP

Wednesday, March 31, 2010    

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SOFIA, Bulgaria (AFP) -- Bulgarian Health Minister Bojidar Nanev resigned yesterday after he was charged with wasting public funds for allegedly purchasing swine flu vaccines at excessive prices.

"The accusations are completely unfounded," Nanev said in a statement.

"Nevertheless, I will tender my resignation."

"It is out of the question that I remain in this post as long as there is the slightest doubt I might have acted against Bulgarian interests," he added.

Sofia prosecutors announced yesterday that charges were being brought against Nanev for allegedly purchasing Tamiflu vaccines at excessive prices and after the A(H1N1) epidemic had passed.

The Bulgarian government paid 3.3 million euros ($4.44 million) for 200,000 doses of the Tamiflu vaccine from Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche, when the British health services had offered the same amount for two million euros, prosecutors said.

"Nanev caused damages to the state of about 2.5 million leva (1.28 million euros, $1.72 million)," noted prosecutor Margarita Nemska.

Moreover, the vaccines were delivered in January, a month and a half after the swine flu epidemic had ended in Bulgaria, the prosecution added.

A top official from the health ministry was also charged alongside Nanev, it said.

Sofia's prosecutors took up the case against Nanev after the British health services, as well as Bulgaria's anti-corruption authorities, filed a complaint.

They had argued that the Tamiflu vaccines had been purchased without respecting procedures for awarding public contracts.

Bulgaria's centre-right government has made the fight against corruption its main priority since taking office last July, following criticism by the European Commission.

Prime Minister Boyko Borisov hinted yesterday that he would accept Nanev's resignation.

"I always said I would not make any compromises," he said.

The opposition Socialists argued however that Borisov was "using this occasion to get rid of an unpopular minister".

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