Italian Court uses OLAF investigative evidence in Italian criminal proceedings
OLAF PRESS RELEASE 3/2013 14 June 2013
The Italian Court of Cremona has used OLAF evidence and the testimony of an OLAF official in Italian criminal proceedings. The final OLAF report on the case was used as direct evidence in the Court's decision. This confirms the importance of OLAF action in trans-border cases, as well as the legal value of OLAF reports and of the evidence gathered in its investigations.
OLAF opened an investigation into an Italian trading company suspected of irregularities related to the supply of equipment for the production of water networks in third countries. The company’s contracts involving both European Development Funds (EDF) and Commission development funds were worth around €1 950 000.
OLAF on-the-spot checks at the headquarters of the company concerned and those of its suppliers revealed that the company had supplied over €400 000 worth of goods from China, declaring their origin as Italian. In OLAF's view, the evidence gathered suggested that the company under investigation had been aware of the real origin of the goods, but had made fraudulent statements to obtain certificates that showed that the goods originated from the EU.
OLAF closed its investigation with recommendations for administrative, financial and judicial follow-up. The final OLAF report was sent to the Italian Prosecutor of Cremona who indicted the company’s CEO on the basis of the evidence gathered by OLAF. On the basis of this same evidence and on the testimony of the OLAF official who carried out the investigation, the Italian Court of Cremona has now found the defendant guilty of fraud against the EU and sentenced him to 2 years' imprisonment (decision of 11 March 2013).
Though this is a first instance decision which can be subject to appeal, the development of the case confirms the outstanding role that OLAF can play in cross-border investigations, and in particular in swiftly gathering reliable evidence.
The first instance ruling also confirms the legal value of the OLAF report, as stipulated in article 9 of regulation 1073/99.
OLAF has also been informed that the European Commission received an out-of-trial compensatory damages payment from the economic operator concerned, as a result of an amicable settlement.
The mission of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is threefold: it protects the financial interests of the European Union by investigating fraud, corruption and any other illegal activities; it detects and investigates serious matters relating to the discharge of professional duties by members and staff of the EU institutions and bodies that could result in disciplinary or criminal proceedings; and it supports the EU institutions, in particular the European Commission, in the development and implementation of anti-fraud legislation and policies.