Reports confirm serious fraud at Eurostat, MEPs keep up pressure

Inquiries into alleged fraud at the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat have shown that millions of euros had gone astray before Prodi’s Commission took office in 2000.

Background

Commission President Romano Prodi is due to formally present three reports on the Eurostat affair in a closed session with the European Parliament's leaders on Thursday, 25 September:

  • a report by the Commission's internal auditors;
  • a report by the EU's anti-fraud body OLAF;
  • a report by a special Commission taskforce.

The reports shed light into allegations of double accounting, fictitious contracts and secret accounts at Eurostat.

The internal audit report says that before 1999 officials at Eurostat had set up a system to channel money into financial reserves to fund activities of the agency. However, while stating that the situation improved after 1999, the reports also confirm that irregular contracts and secret accounts continued after 2000. The internal audit report confirms that Eurostat's secret accounts remained open until July 2003.

Mr Prodi will argue that most of the worst mismanagement at Eurostat took place before he took office in 2000. He will also tell the Parliament that there is no evidence that Commission officials have personally enriched themselves.

The OLAF report mainly blames the former director of Eurostat, Yves Franchet, for the agency's illegal activities. This report suggests that some cases of fraud are serious enough to merit criminal proceedings in courts.

Several MEPs have called for the resignation of Commissioner Pedro Solbes, responsible for Eurostat. The MEPs who read the reports on Wednesday night said that the reports showed Solbes' cabinet knew about fraud at Eurostat, but it was not clear whether his aides had informed him about it.

 

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