INVESTIGATION INTO THE CEREALS SECTOR

Press Release OLAF/23/2003, 16 October 2003

The Brussels Prosecution Service has announced a major police and judicial operation in close cooperation with the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF), the European Commission and the French and Dutch police and judicial authorities. The vast police operation (involving more than a hundred officers) began with a complaint by OLAF and involved several months of detailed investigations in close cooperation with the Belgian judicial and police authorities. Six persons are being held for questioning in France and there have been two arrests in Belgium.

The Brussels Prosecution Service [Mr Jos Colpin, First Substitute for the Royal Prosecutor - Spokesman for the Brussels Prosecution Service, tel. +32(0)25087440, fax: +32(0)25190822] has just announced that, following a complaint by the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF), an investigation overseen by Mr VAN ESPEN, Examining Magistrate in Brussels, and conducted by the Central Corruption Office (OCRC) of the Belgian Federal Police, has brought to light suspicious dealings between an official in the European Commission's Directorate-General for Agriculture (DG AGRI) and major cereal trading groups.

The European Commission official involved is suspected of having supplied confidential information with major economic and strategic value for the cereals business.

This was the reason behind a large-scale police operation yesterday, 15 October 2003, involving more than a hundred police simultaneously in Belgium, France and the Netherlands with the cooperation of the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF), the European Commission and the French and Dutch judicial and police authorities.

According to the press release published by the Belgian judicial authorities, many witnesses were questioned and searches were conducted in, among other places, the premises of DG AGRI and the Paris and Rotterdam headquarters of two French and Dutch cereals groups. A large volume of documents and computer files was seized by the Belgian judicial authorities.

The Brussels Prosecution Service has announced that six persons are being held for questioning by the French judicial authorities and two arrests have been made in Belgium under warrants issued by Mr LUGENTZ and Mr VANDERMEERSCH, Examining Magistrates. The offences charged by the Belgian judicial authorities are, at the current stage of proceedings, corruption of an international civil servant, violation of professional secrecy and criminal conspiracy.

The amounts defrauded, which could turn out to be substantial, are such that further searches and analyses will have to be conducted by the Belgian judicial and police authorities in close cooperation with OLAF.

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

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