Commission denies negligence in Eurostat fraud probe
A Commission spokesman rejected as "sheer rubbish" allegations by the Financial Times newspaper that Romano Prodi ignored warnings of possible fraud at Eurostat, the EU's statistics office.
Chief Commission spokesman Reijo Kemppinen also said the allegations did not merit legal action against the newspaper. However, the Commission said it was investigating a number of Eurostat's activities. Meanwhile, the three Commissioners who the Financial Times said were also implicated in what the newspaper called a "looting scandal at Eurostat" also strongly rejected the accusations. In a public hearing at Parliament's Budgetary Control Committee on 17 June, Budget Commissioner Michaele Schreyer, Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pedro Solbes and Administration Commissioner Neil Kinnock stated repeatedly that they had not received any suspicious information prior to the publication of reports on the alleged fraud by OLAF, the EU's anti-fraud unit. However, they did concede that there appeared to be problems "far more significant" than previously thought.
OLAF opened a probe into Eurostat's activities in October 2000. The Commission said on 17 June it was proposing a new code of conduct to improve communication between OLAF and the EU executive.
Eurostat's two top officials, Yves Franchet and Daniel Byk, are under investigation for the alleged looting of about 1 million euro of EU funds. Both Mr Franchet and Mr Byk were removed from their posts at their own request in May, and both deny any wrongdoing.