OLAF/04/14 Brussels, the 2 August 2004

Responding to a complaint against a search and seizure the Belgian judicial authorities had carried out at the premises of an EU-correspondent in Brussels, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) announced on Friday, July 30, that it awaits an Order by the President of the European Court of First Instance (CFI) on interim measures requested by the plaintiff. At the same time, OLAF declared that it would abstain from taking further action before the Belgian judiciary had ruled on the journalist's parallel appeal currently pending against the Belgian authorities' measures.

The search and seizure undertaken by the Belgian judicial authorities on March 19, 2004, followed a transmission of information arising from an internal OLAF investigation to the Public Prosecutor's office in Brussels. The subject of this investigation is a suspected leak of confidential information and the allegation that money was paid for it (see Press Release of March 23, 2004All available translations.). The journalist concerned is seeking a remedy against these measures both before the Belgian courts and before the European Court of First Instance (CFI) in Luxemburg.

The correspondent filed his complaint before the CFI against the Commission and OLAF on June 4, 2004. This legal action aims at annulling the transmission of the information by OLAF to the Belgian authorities. It also seeks to obtain damages for this transmission as well as for an earlier OLAF press release. As a temporary remedy, the plaintiff is seeking interim measures with the CFI that would forbid the communication of any information obtained by the Belgian authorities in the course of the search and seizure to OLAF until after the final ruling by the CFI. According to the Commission's pleadings this request is inadmissible and unfounded.

Following a hearing on the requested interim measures before the President of the Court of First Instance on July 20, 2004, the Commission, on behalf of OLAF, informed the CFI in Luxemburg on Friday, July 30, 2004, that it is not in a position to wholly accede to a settlement proposal made during the hearing and therefore awaits an Order from the CFI's President which will provide legal certainty. In Brussels OLAF nevertheless made clear that it would not seek access to the judicial file about the search and seizure before the competent Belgian Court, the Chambre de mise en accusation of the Court of Appeals in Brussels, has ruled on the journalist's appeal against the Belgian measures. In this context, OLAF reaffirms its full respect for and confidence in the European and national judiciaries. Its approach, both in this case and in other instances of the forwarding of information to national judicial authorities, is one of deference to these authorities and to the national criminal proceedings conducted by them under applicable national law.

The President of the CFI now will consider the request for interim measures. Independently of the President's decision, a Chamber of the CFI will rule on the main case in due course.

Dr. Alessandro Butticé
Head of Communication, PR and Spokesman Unit
Tel : +32 (0)2 296.54.25
Fax : +32 (0)2 299.81.01

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