OLAF/04/22 Brussels, the 19 November 2004

Whether in interviews, on the spot checks or in other investigative activities, the admissibility of evidence must always be preserved. This key principle for all investigations conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has immediate legal consequences: If the national rules are respected, a final investigation report from OLAF can be used as admissible evidence in judicial proceedings in any EU-Member State. During a two-day conference which finished today in Brussels, OLAF judicial experts discussed the practical implications of these rules with 65 anti-fraud prosecutors from 31 countries.

"The success of OLAF's work relies on a sound knowledge of the national rules as well as on the awareness amongst national public prosecutors of OLAF's role and competences", Franz-Hermann Brüner, Director General of the European Anti-Fraud Office, explained. "Frequent exchanges between OLAF agents and members of judiciary bodies on best practices and mutual expectations is extremely useful in the fight against corruption and fraud", he added.

"Working together to protect the financial interests of the European Community against fraud or corruption" was the headline of the Second European Union Conference of Fraud Prosecutors, organised by OLAF in Brussels. The activity was designed to keep participants informed on OLAF's proceedings and to further streamline the investigative work of the Office with a view towards judicial follow up measures. As a final investigation report from OLAF can constitute evidence in judicial proceedings in all EU-Member States, the aim of an investigation is to respect all relevant national rules in order to have a case which is sufficiently well founded to send it to the national prosecution offices. Since it was established, OLAF has referred more than 300 cases to national judicial authorities; more than 200 of them are now following due course there. Within OLAF, a special judicial advice unit composed of judges and public prosecutors contributes its particular expertise to this task.

The prosecution of suspected criminal acts is the national judicial authorities' prerogative, even when European Union's financial interests are affected. The legal basis for OLAF stipulates that an investigation report shall constitute admissible evidence in administrative or judicial proceedings of an EU-Member State in the same way and under the same conditions as administrative reports drawn up by national administrative inspectors. The main precondition is that the procedural requirements laid down in the Member State's national law have been respected. In the course of a subsequent national judicial investigation, OLAF may then further assist the national prosecuting authorities in their work.

The future establishment of a European Public Prosecutor, as foreseen by the European Constitutional Treaty which is currently in the process of being ratified, would concentrate the prosecution of cases of fraud against the EU's financial interests in the hands of this new body.

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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