Europe

EU lost nearly 1bn euros from budget - Olaf report

Olaf Director-General Giovanni Kessler, file pic Image copyright AFP
Image caption Olaf chief Giovanni Kessler tries to track down missing EU budget funds

The EU's anti-fraud agency Olaf tried to recover €901m (£654m) of misspent EU budget funds last year, including €198m that went to a mismanaged Spanish port.

Olaf said another €49m that the EU had earmarked for the port expansion at El Musel, near Gijon in northern Spain, should not be paid.

Two senior port managers are suspected of fraud in the port project.

Acting on Olaf advice, EU member states managed to recover €206.5m in 2014. But the total EU budget was €142.7bn.

An Olaf spokesman told the BBC that the €206.5m recovered was the result of investigations launched in previous years.

The figures came out in an Olaf report on anti-fraud operations in 2014.

Not all the misspent funds went missing through fraud - sometimes money was lost because of accounting errors.

The total of €901m that Olaf asked member states to recover last year was more than double the corresponding 2013 figure.

Of that 2014 total, €476.5m had disappeared from EU structural funds - also called the cohesion budget, intended to improve infrastructure in the EU's poorest regions.

Diverse indictment rates

The second biggest budget area for recovery was external aid (€174m), then customs and trade (€132m).

Olaf helps to co-ordinate anti-fraud investigations across EU borders but has no power to pursue suspects itself, the spokesman said.

In 2007-2014 Olaf made 479 recommendations to national judicial authorities to open cases for fraud against the EU budget.

Of the 16 cases launched in the UK on Olaf advice, just five resulted in indictments - a 31% rate of indictment, Olaf says.

A few countries - Greece, Malta, Slovenia and Sweden - had 100% indictment rates. The figures for France and Germany were 63% and 54%, respectively.

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