OLAF: Fraud Detected in Environmental Research
OLAF investigations dismantled a fraud scheme by a consortium that had received EU money to carry out environmental research. After a tip-off by the European Commission’s Research Executive Agency (REA), which had discovered irregularities in claims for personal costs, OLAF carried out on-the-spot checks and digital forensic operations, assisted by the competent national authorities. Apparently, the beneficiaries (a consortium of five small and medium-sized companies in France, Ireland, Romania, and Spain) had neither the capacity nor the intention to carry out the environmental research project. Instead, the major share of the EU grant (€400,000) was pumped into a casino/hotel in Cyprus. The investigation was already concluded in November 2019 but only reported on 17 April 2020. OLAF recommended that the REA recover €410,000 from the consortium. The national judicial authorities recommended initiating judicial proceedings against the individuals involved.
OLAF Director General Ville Itälä stressed that OLAF’s work is becoming increasingly important in the area of environmental research, because a great deal of EU money was spent after the new Commission set its ambitious goal of the European Green Deal.