Eastern European Countries Cited in EU Fraud Probes
The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has called on the European Union to try and recover more than €900m of taxpayers’ money lost from its budget in 2014 due to suspected fraud. The total was more than double the figure for the previous year.
One in four fraud investigations completed by the EU fraud regulator related to Romania, with Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Italy making up the top five. OLAF completed 156 investigations into the use of EU funds in 2014, of which 36 related to Romania, 13 to Hungary, 11 to Bulgaria, eight to the Czech Republic and seven to Italy.
The fraud watchdog said it had reclaimed €206.5m in 2014, as a result of its investigations. Investigators said there was often a lag of several years between recommendations and money being repaid.
OLAF’s annual report also revealed that the watchdog received a record number of fraud allegations last year. However, EU officials suggested that the figures did not necessarily mean that fraud had risen, but that individuals were more confident in coming forward to report their concerns.
Around half of the missing €900m related to structural funds allocated by the EU to poorer regions, while €174m related to EU aid payments.
OLAF can recommend individual countries should pursue criminal prosecutions in certain cases, although over the past seven years only 53% of such recommendations led to criminal investigations.