The contract, through which the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency /BFSA/ leased premises on the border of Eurolab 2011, was concluded in violation of the law. This became clear from a legal opinion published today by the lawyers of the Anti-Corruption Fund /ACF/. According to it, the law unequivocally prohibits the leasing of buildings that are public state property and serve to implement official border control.
Legal Adviser to the Anti-Corruption Fund Daniela Peneva explained:
„The buildings have an extremely specific purpose – official border control on food safety – which can only be performed by the authorized state body BFSA. Any contract to rent them to another person essentially changes the purpose of the buildings, which is a clear violation of the law.“
The thesis of the ACF also cites a decision of the High Administrative Court on an identical case. According to him, it is inadmissible to rent public state-owned buildings if this changes their purpose. In March of this year, the Fund asked the BFSA in accordance with the Law on Access to Public Information: on what grounds is the Eurolab laboratory located in the premises of the BFSA in the area of the Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint?
After silence on the part of the institution and subsequent court proceedings in the Administrative Court of Sofia-City /ACSC/, the BABH was ordered to provide the requested information. The following is subsequently clear from the answer:
On 01.02.2012, Executive Director of BSFA, Yordan Voinov, concluded a lease contract with Stop Group Ltd (now called Interpred Eurologistic Ltd), owner of the Eurolab laboratory. Pursuant to the contract, the BFSA provides six buildings for paid use for a period of 10 years, which are used to control the quality and safety of food in the area of the Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint:
- Building for „live animals“;
- Live Animal Control Building;
- Human Consumption Production Control Building
- Non-human Consumption Production Control Building
- Phytosanitary Control Building 1;
- Phytosanitary Control Building 2.
At the end of 2021, according to the BFSA, after an auction, on 31.12.2022 a new lease contract was concluded for the same buildings, but with a new tenant – the newly registered company Eurolab 2011 Ltd, which is also the new owner of the Eurolab laboratory located in the same buildings of the Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint. Offers for the conclusion of the contract were submitted at 21:00 on 31/12/2021, and the contract itself was signed at 10:26 p.m. on 31/12/2021 by Deputy Executive Director Nikolay Rosenov, despite the order of the Minister of Agriculture Ivan Ivanov, which prohibits the BFSA from concluding new contracts.
The law clearly states that public state-owned properties can be rented out, provided they are used in accordance with their intended purpose.
„No other legal entity, apart from the BFSA, can carry out border control. In other words, any contract for the lease of the buildings to another person, other than the BFSA, means that they are not being used for their intended purpose,„, Daniela Peneva added. The fact that the buildings will be used for something else (preparation of animals and goods, auxiliary activities) and not for official control is also evident from the text of the contracts themselves.
The order dated 31.12.2021 to determine the winning bidder in the auction for renting out the buildings was annulled as null and void by order of the Executive Director of the BFSA dated 01.07.2022. With this order, the order was terminated and concluded on the basis of the void contract for rent from the same date. At the present time, Eurolab 2011 is contesting before the Administrative Court-Sofia-city the order of the Executive Director of the BFSA dated 01.07.2022.
„Regardless of what the outcome of this case will be, we believe that there is a significant flaw in the basis of the rental procedure, due to the initial impossibility of renting the buildings in the area of the BCP for food safety control. This is grounds for annulment of the order by which it was assigned and termination of the lease agreement,„, the opinion of the ACF says.
„The conclusion of such a contract, by virtue of which BFSA practically deprives itself of the buildings provided to it for the implementation of official control, contradicts not only the legal order, but also any logic of life. It is completely unclear what compels the BFSA to provide its buildings for official control to a private person, in the case of extremely unfavorable conditions for terminating the contract, while at the same time reserving the right to access the buildings to carry out the control. The question arises as to how effective official food safety control is, carried out in premises controlled by a private person, at the same time a representative of the importers and at the same time the owner of the laboratory where the samples are tested. We believe that the interests of the Bulgarian citizens and the Bulgarian state require that the state-owned buildings of Kapitan Andreevo be used for the purpose of carrying out border control by the official control authorities, and not by private individuals,“, the ACF stated and added:
We believe that the Minister of Agriculture and the Executive Director of the BFSA should submit to the regional governor a motivated proposal for the confiscation of the properties, as they are not being used for their intended purpose and without a legal basis.
„We will monitor the decision on the case and inform the public in due course. We will also look for the additional information that the BFSA is obliged by the court to provide us,“, Director of the Anti-Corruption Fund Boyko Stankushev said.