The Bulgarian government has referred gas supply contracts which the previous cabinet signed with Russia to the chief prosecutor's office, following a jump in domestic prices, private bTV television reported.
The government's press service and prosecutor's office were not immediately available for comment on the report, aired on Friday. But Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said earlier this week the contracts would be sent to prosecutors for investigation, adding he expected charges against people who signed the deals.
Natural gas prices for the third quarter rose 25 percent to reflect higher costs of Russian imports and a stronger dollar, which the cabinet said was due to unfavourable deals signed by the previous Socialist-led coalition in 2006.
The increase also affected politically-sensitive heating prices. Power and heating bills, especially in winter, eat up a large part of Bulgarians' wages and pensions which remain well below those in western Europe.
It was not clear what violations the centre-right cabinet, elected a year ago, suspected. But Economy and Energy Minister Traicho Traikov has said the previous cabinet gave into pressure from Moscow to change the contracts which had been favourable to Bulgaria, which gets almost all of its gas from Russia.
In 2006, state gas monopoly Bulgargaz signed a new contract with Gazprom which abolished a barter system under which the Russian supplier paid for gas transit through Bulgaria by selling Sofia a corresponding amount of gas at a significant discount to market prices.
Under the deal valid until 2030, delivery prices will increase gradually to average market levels by December 2012.
Traikov said on Saturday that Gazprom's export chief Alexander Medvedev and Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov are expected in Sofia on July 6 to discuss the contracts.
Talks would also cover a nuclear power plant project, and the South stream pipeline which aims to carry gas from Russia under the Black Sea to the Balkans and into western Europe in a bid to reduce dependence on transit through Ukraine and Belarus, where price disputes have threatened or disrupted supplies.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 04 Temmuz 2010, 11:10