The EU anti-fraud agency Olaf uncovered fraud worth more than half a billion euros using EU funds last year. According to a report, more than 527 million euros were misused or misused in the European Union last year – around 234 million euros more than in the previous year.
The Brussels-based authority has the task of uncovering fraud involving EU funds. The investigators are also examining the work within the European authorities.
The new annual report focuses, among other things, on damage to the environment and misuse of funds for agricultural projects. In Italy, for example, a case of fraud was uncovered in which a bogus company received subsidies for the cultivation of organic wine, but did not produce wine in accordance with the organic criteria.
Tourism projects that were supposed to bring jobs to rural areas were also misused for fraud. For example, 23 million euros were embezzled for the construction of guest houses in Bulgaria, which were ultimately used for private purposes rather than tourism.
As in the previous year, fraudsters tried to profit from the corona pandemic. According to the report, bogus offers of vaccines worth more than 16 billion euros have been made to national authorities. The aim of the scammers was to persuade the authorities to make large down payments and then disappear with the money.
The uncovering of smuggling of illegal tobacco products brought the EU countries around 90 million euros. This prevented a total of 437 million illegal cigarettes from entering the EU market. In addition, a total of 372 tons of raw tobacco were confiscated, it said.
Olaf director Ville Itälä said such fraud attempts are increasingly affecting people’s health and safety, as well as the environment. “Prevention is the most effective tool we have and it is at the heart of the work of Olaf and the EU institutions,” Itälä said. He was “proud of the service that Olaf does for the Europeans”.