A crumbling bridge built with EU money but substandard materials, plagiarism in an EU research project, tomato importers evading customs duties, a retired official trying to increase his pension by illegal means: these are only four examples demonstrating the large variety of cases in which the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) intervened in 2007. OLAF presented today in Brussels its new Annual Activity Report which illustrates its work inside and outside the EU in 15 case studies and numerous statistical tables. At the end of 2007, OLAF was investigating a total of 408 cases.
“The figures and the cases in the report show clearly how seriously irregularities, fraud and corruption are being taken by OLAF and by the European Institutions in general,” OLAF Director General Franz-Hermann Brüner said on the occasion of the presentation of the new OLAF Activity Reportin Brussels. “They also demonstrate that the joint action of OLAF and its operational partners in the Member States, third countries and international organisations must continue,” he explained. Mr Brüner added: “It is very important for OLAF’s success that in our task of protecting the European Union’s financial interests against fraud, corruption, smuggling and other criminal acts we can continue to build on the close cooperation of the law enforcement agencies in the Member States and beyond.”
Outside, as well as within the EU institutions, OLAF is trusted for dealing efficiently with new information on potential irregularities, fraud or corruption. The volume of information received by the Office has constantly increased from 529 new items in 2002 to a new high of 886 in 2007. At the end of the year OLAF was investigating a total of 408 cases. The financial benefit of OLAF actions for the EU taxpayer was again considerable. While the preventive effect of the Office’s work cannot be measured in figures, in 2007 a sum exceeding 200 million Euros was recorded as recovered following closed OLAF cases. At the same time the Office’s operational costs were around 50 million Euros.
In 2007 OLAF further followed its strategy to focus on bigger, complex fraud cases in sensitive areas of the EU budget in Europe and beyond. The accession to the EU of two new Member States on the 1st of January 2007 also brought about a further intensification of OLAF’s already existing activities in those two countries. An even closer co-operation with the Romanian and the Bulgarian authorities in the fight against fraud affecting the EU financial interests remains high on the Office’s agenda.
As far as irregularities within the European institutions themselves and in other bodies like EU agencies are concerned, OLAF was investigating a total of 70 internal cases at the end of 2007, representing 17 percent of all its cases under investigation at that time.
The European Anti-Fraud Office issues annually a report on its independent operational activities during the previous year. This report has to be distinguished from the European Commission’s “Report on the Protection of the financial interests of the Communities - fight against fraud” which is published at the same time.