OLAF CLOSES AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE MISUSE OF EUROPEAN FUNDS IN THE FRAMEWORK OF THE CREATION OF ECOLOGICAL PARKS IN GREECE (ECOPARKS)

Press Release OLAF/10/2003, 10 April 2003

The European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF) has recently closed an investigation into misuse of European funds in Greece. The funding - from the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund - was destined for the creation of ecological parks in Greece. From its investigation OLAF has been able to establish that a minimum of €3.4 million was either misused or incorrectly obtained. The OLAF report on this matter has been forwarded to the appropriate judicial authorities in Greece and to the competent European Commission services for further action.

OLAF has recently formally closed an investigation concerning the use of European agricultural funds in the framework of a programme for the creation of ecological parks in Greece. This long term (20 year) programme, which received 75% of its funding from the EU budget, had as its goal the creation of natural parks in zones which had been degraded by agricultural activity, and the development of zones to protect rivers from agricultural pollution. It should also be possible to use the 25,000 hectares protected for tourism. To date, during the first five years of the programme, some €20 million has been spent.

OLAF has recently formally closed an investigation concerning the use of European agricultural funds in the framework of a programme for the creation of ecological parks in Greece. This long term (20 year) programme, which received 75% of its funding from the EU budget, had as its goal the creation of natural parks in zones which had been degraded by agricultural activity, and the development of zones to protect rivers from agricultural pollution. It should also be possible to use the 25,000 hectares protected for tourism. To date, during the first five years of the programme, some €20 million has been spent.

OLAF has conducted its investigation, which was initiated on 21 January 2002, in co-operation with the Greek authorities and the competent services of the European Commission. On-the-spot checks have been carried out on 5 undertakings in Greece, and on a company registered in the United Kingdom.

During the course of its investigation, OLAF established that:

  • Criteria required for the application of the programme have not been respected. A certain portion of the land for which aid was received was not eligible, claims were made for forest rather than for agricultural land or pasture, animals continued to graze the lands, or the lands in question were located in areas which were so remote as to make tourist access
  • The works to be carried out on the land, in order to respect the conditions under which the aid was granted, have either not been undertaken or have not been completed, even though the shareholders or management of the companies receiving the aid have been paid dividends;
  • The control systems in place were less than those necessary to ensure the strict application of the programme;
  • 5 out of 18 undertakings involved in the programme and visited by OLAF received a total of €6.1 million in aid
  • A minimum of €3.4 million was either misused or incorrectly obtained

OLAF has forwarded its file in this matter to Directorate General Agriculture of the European Commission to allow it to put in place the clearance of accounts procedure, and to carry out any corrections it may feel appropriate in regard to the future of the programme. OLAF has also transmitted its findings to the competent authorities in Greece, in particular the judicial authorities.

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

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