EPPO seizes over €147m in crimes against EU funds
The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) seized more than €147 million in crimes against the bloc's budget during the first six months of it setting up shop in Luxembourg, the EU Commission said on Friday.
Between its launch in June and December last year, EPPO received more than 2,800 reports of suspected crime from citizens or national authorities, and opened 576 investigations, the Commission said in its 2021 report on how the EU’s finances are protected.
In November, EPPO secured its first conviction after a Slovak mayor was handed a three-year suspended sentence for providing false documents to illegally obtain financial aid from EU funds. Bulgaria later detained former Prime Minister Boyko Borissov in a probe carried out by EPPO.
The fraud-fighting institution set up shop in the Kirchberg area of Luxembourg City, bringing together prosecutors from 22 participating European countries who work with teams in their home countries to investigate fraud and crimes against EU funds.
Poland, which decided not to join the agency, has repeatedly refused to cooperate on investigations into cross-border crimes involving the country, EPPO said earlier this year. In February, the EU's fraud fighters had 23 ongoing cross-border investigations which have links to Poland – the highest number of any non-member.
EPPO recovered money from criminal activities in 81 cases across 12 countries - including Luxembourg - the Commission found. Prosecutors requested that more than €152 million be seized and managed to get €147 million.
EPPO is obliged to start an investigation whenever it has grounds to believe that an offence has been committed, and national authorities must report crimes involving EU funds to the prosecutors.
The institution is set to almost double the number of staff it employs at its Luxembourg headquarters by the end of this year.
Five countries – Poland, Hungary, the Republic of Ireland, Denmark and Sweden – opted out, although Sweden is planning to join later this year.