EU fraud cases under wraps
The EU anti-fraud watchdog is awaiting information from Malta on five cases in which Maltese individuals are linked to alleged abuse of funds relating to agriculture, VAT and EU institutions.
The authorities were given “evidence” of criminal offences involving EU funds committed by Maltese citizens. The anti-fraud office in Brussels (Olaf) is now expecting to be told what action Malta has taken or will be taking. Both Olaf and the government refused to reveal how much EU money is involved in these five cases.
It is also not yet known whether Maltese authorities have proceeded to charge those concerned in court. Olaf is refusing to release names or further details as it is forbidden to do so by its own rules.
“The cases result from investigations conducted in Olaf’s VAT, agriculture and EU institutions sectors. However, we cannot comment further on matters subject to possible judicial action,” Olaf’s spokesman Pavel Borkevec told The Times when pressed to reveal the alleged fraudsters.
Asked to say why the office insisted on passing its conclusions to Maltese authorities instead of proceeding against those found in the wrong, the spokesman said this was common practice for the organisation as it did not have any judicial powers.
“When, in the course of an investigation, or at the end of it, it has become apparent to Olaf that a criminal offence may have been committed, Olaf draws up a report of its findings and transmits this to the judicial authorities of the member state concerned,” Mr Borkevec said.
A government spokesman would only say: “We are not in a position to comment about ongoing Olaf cases. When court proceedings are initiated and the charges are read in court these will be made public.”
The EU’s anti-fraud watchdog expects to know what action is taken where abuse of EU money is concerned, according to its spokesman.
“Olaf relies on EU institutions and authorities in member states to carry out follow-up actions which it recommends on the basis of its investigative findings. These authorities are responsible for implementation and may decide to take a course of action different to that recommended by Olaf.” Normally, EU member states take Olaf’s conclusions very seriously. Only last year, national courts in several member states sentenced fraudsters to a cumulative 125 years of imprisonment and imposed financial penalties totalling nearly €1.47 billion.