Internal investigation concerning a leak of confidential information

Press Release OLAF/03/2002, 27 March 2002

On 31 August 2001 a statement of allegations compiled by Commission official Paul van Buitenen was delivered to the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and the Commission's Directorate General for Administration (DG ADMIN). Subsequently, OLAF and DG ADMIN have each separately undertaken very thorough analysis of the contents of the statement of allegations to determine whether it contained any new facts meriting formal investigation.

On 26 and 28 February 2002, the European Commission, with the agreement of Mr. Brüner, Director General of OLAF, published two separate press statements (IP/02/315 and MEMO/02/38) on this case setting out the developments.

Following an apparent leak of confidential information included in a report prepared within OLAF, the Office has decided, in accordance with Art. 51 of Regulation (EC) No. 1073/1999, to open an internal investigation.

According to information received by the Office, a journalist has received a number of documents relating to the so-called "van Buitenen affair". It is not excluded that payment may have been made to somebody within OLAF (or possibly another EU institution) for these documents.

OLAF intends to carry out its investigation into this matter rigorously and in conformity with the law so as to determine the full facts in this case.

In the conduct of its investigations the Office always tries to be as transparent in its dealings with the press and public as possible. This policy of transparency however has limits, namely;

  • those which are established by Community legislation,
  • national laws concerning secrecy of national investigations co-ordinated by OLAF, and
  • respect for both the secrecy of investigations and the rights of individuals.

It follows that OLAF is obliged to respect the rules concerning protection of personal privacy and data protection. The obligations pursuant to Article 287 of the Treaty concerning the protection of professional secrecy must also be observed. As far as is relevant to the Office, the rules on the protection of secrecy of criminal investigations and judicial procedures must also be respected. It follows that any further comment by OLAF about investigations would constitute a breach of the law.

The Office always respects the highest ethical standards. It conducts its investigations in full independence. It would however point out that the bribery or payment of officials to provide official information is illegal in Belgium, and the information obtained by OLAF in the course of its investigations is protected by the relevant provisions of Belgian law. If following the internal investigation illegal activity is indicated, it is the intention of the Office that the perpetrators be prosecuted in accordance with the applicable disciplinary and criminal provisions.

OLAF has decided to issue this press release because of numerous rumours and speculation on the part of the media in recent days. Its purpose is to clarify the matter from OLAF's perspective and so to avoid possible misunderstandings.

No further comment on this internal investigation will be made until it is concluded.

Mr Alessandro Butticé
Spokesman of the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF)
Tel : +32 (0)2 296.5425
Fax : +32 (0)2 299.8101

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