OLAF /07/03
Brussels, 14 February 2007

In close cooperation with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), the competent Prosecutor’s Offices of Bulgaria, Germany and Switzerland and their respective national authorities, carried out a large-scale operation and uncovered an international crime ring involving EU pre-accession funds. The financial impact of the subsidy fraud under the EU-funded SAPARD programme is estimated at 7.5 million euros.

OLAF, together with its national partner services in the Member States, coordinated the joint operation over a six month period. Evidence was discovered which pointed to possible irregularities in the EU-funded SAPARD programme (Special Accession Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development).

National partner services involved in the joint investigative operation were the Supreme Cassation Prosecutors Office in Sofia, the Bulgarian Chief Directorate for Combating Organised Crime, the Public Prosecutors Office in Augsburg, Germany, together with the German Customs Investigation Services in Munich,, and the Federal Public Prosecutors Office and the Federal Criminal Investigation Police in Bern, Switzerland.

The companies investigated were involved in a fraudulent carousel operation and are part of a linked network of more than 50 companies. The SAPARD Agency had paid approximately 7.5 million euros to beneficiaries allegedly involved in the fraud.

The alleged fraud involves Bulgarian, German and Swiss companies’ acquisition of used machinery for the processing and packaging of meat products at inflated prices. SAPARD aid was then irregularly claimed in Bulgaria on the ineligible machinery, based on these inflated prices.

The German Zollkriminalamt (ZKA) has also issued a press release on this matter.

The Director-General of OLAF, Mr. F.H. Brüner, welcomed this development. He looked forward to continued cooperation with the Bulgarian authorities, since much remains to be done to deal with such instances of organised fraud against the Community budget.

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

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