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Brussels, 14 July 2010
OLAF Activity Report: Facing the challenges of success
In 2009, OLAF opened 220 cases, an increase compared to 2008 when 204 cases were opened. Systemic weakness found in a new agency, misuse of parliamentary expenses by an ex-MEP, and investigation of a possible systemic fraud within the SAPARD programme are examples of investigations presented in the Activity Report of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) that is being presented today.
The 2009 Report records the tangible results achieved across a wide range of areas under the leadership of the late Director General of OLAF, Franz-Hermann Brüner. The Report concentrates on OLAF's independent operational work, and presents a number of concrete case studies showing the nature and the benefits of OLAF's work in greater detail. Nicholas Ilett, acting Director General, said “under Mr Brüner’s leadership, OLAF developed into a multi-disciplinary administration with all-round anti-fraud competences, in investigation, cooperation and coordination, analysis, prevention and deterrence. The challenges for the future are the challenges of success, to maintain the Office’s effectiveness at a time when the threat is growing faster than the resources available to combat it; and to ensure the operational continuity of an independent service against a background of necessary reform.”
Special focus in the 2009 Report: systemic weakness found in new agency
A number of serious irregularities were detected during an audit of a newly-created European agency. Given the serious and systematic nature of the irregularities - breach of financial regulations, negligence, non-respect of the basic requirements of sound financial management - OLAF was immediately informed and opened an investigation.
In the rush to set up the agency, key elements of the financial management and control had not been implemented. The situation quickly improved, thanks to the combined efforts of the European Court of Auditors, the Internal Audit Service of the European Commission and OLAF. The responsible officials resigned from their posts and fundamental changes were made to the agency's internal procedures.
Internal investigations: misuse of parliamentary expenses by ex-MEP
A Member of the European Parliament defrauded the EU budget by falsely claiming expenses in excess of €40,000 per year. Following the press coverage of the allegation, the MEP repaid the expenses falsely claimed. The OLAF investigation concluded, however, that there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the MEP was aware of his actions being illegal, and the case was referred to the relevant national authorities.
On trial, the now ex-MEP, pleaded guilty to the charge of false accounting and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.
Agricultural expenditure: OLAF coordinates investigation into possible systemic fraud in SAPARD programme
The SAPARD programme (Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development) was designed to prepare the Central and Eastern European candidate countries in the pre-accession period for their participation in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the single market.
OLAF is currently investigating allegations of widespread fraud in the funding of meat processing plants in Bulgaria. Within the context of a separate on-going investigation, the customs' authorities in a number of Member States were requested by OLAF to verify the authenticity of invoices for material purchased.
The German customs' authorities informed OLAF that it had evidence of the systematic overpricing of material, funded by SAPARD, for plants in Bulgaria. OLAF is working closely with the authorities in five Member States and has conducted on-the-spot controls in another seven Member States in order to determine the full extent and scope of this fraud.
Throughout over a decade of expansion, OLAF has developed its activities in a whole range of areas: internal investigation within EU Institutions, coordination of customs' operations; suppression of illegal trafficking of cigarettes; major efforts in the new Member States prior to and following enlargement; actively fighting fraud via aid and development projects, as well as on the ground, in Africa and elsewhere; a massive investment in specialist IT equipment for the purpose of investigative support, analysis, and secure international communication and coordination, to mention just a few examples.
A necessary reform of OLAF is on the political agenda, partly to take account of lessons learnt in the past, partly to exploit the opportunities created for the future by the Lisbon Treaty.
OLAF annually issues a Report on its independent, operational activities during the previous year. The European Commission also issues the "Report on the Protection of the financial interests of the Communities - fight against fraud", which provides among other things a statistical overview of all irregularities notified to the Commission by the Member States.
Both reports, published today, are also available at: