FRAUD INVOLVING THE AGRICULTURE SET-ASIDE SCHEME

OLAF /09/01 Brussels, 3 February 2009

In a case involving alleged fraud against agricultural funds, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) granted assistance to the Italian investigative and judicial authorities which resulted in seizures of assets worth about 17 million Euros. The alleged fraud concerned the "set-aside" scheme that foresaw payments from EU funds to the owners of unused arable land.

The investigation was led by Rome’s Prosecution Office with other Prosecution Offices being involved at the initial stages. It was carried out principally by the Italian Guardia di Finanza with the participation of the Carabinieri during one part of the case. Seizure warrants issued by the Rome Prosecution Office secured assets worth about 17 million Euros with the intention of recovering misused EU funds. The Guardia di Finanza estimates the initial impact of the fraud scheme at 26 million Euros, which had been paid out to a total of 119 individual recipients.

The alleged acts of fraud had been committed under the previous "set-aside" scheme of the EU’s Rural Development policy (in force until 1998) under which owners of unused arable land could receive certain primes. The perpetrators allegedly manipulated the beneficiary list of the set-aside scheme in order to obtain payments from the Italian payment agency (Agenzia per le Erogazioni in Agricoltura) to which they submitted false documentation. This resulted in fraudulent payments up to a total of 100.000 Euros per beneficiary until the first half of 2006.

OLAF co-ordinated and supported the work of the Italian authorities in this complex matter.

Alessandro Butticé
Head of Spokesman, Communication and PRUnit
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