European Prosecutor Hails Improved Fraud Action, But Acknowledges More Needs To Be Done

June 7, 2022
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The first year of operations of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office shows that it is working well, the authority has said, as it calls on member states to up their game.

The first year of operations of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) shows that it is working well, the authority has said, as it calls on member states to up their game.

According to the EU agency, 4,006 crime reports were registered and analysed, 929 investigations were opened and a sum of €259m (more than four times the EPPO’s annual budget) of freezing orders was granted in its first year of action.

Of the 4,006 crime reports processed, 1,921 originated from national authorities, 1,841 from private parties, 231 from EU institutions, bodies, organisations and agencies, and 13 were registered ex officio by the European delegated prosecutors.

Based in Luxembourg, the EPPO began operating in June 2021, having been agreed on through an EU regulation in 2017. The idea itself has been around in some form or another since 1995.

It currently consists of 22 of the 27 EU member states, with the likes of Sweden, Poland and Denmark among those not participating in the agency.

In spite of its successes so far, the EPPO has acknowledged that there is work to be done, particularly in terms of fraud detection.

“Be it in the EU member states, or the different EU institutions, organisations, bodies and agencies, the level of detection of EU fraud is uneven and, too often, low,” the EPPO has complained.

If there is no detection, there can be no investigation, no prosecution, no judgment and no recovery of damages, the body has warned.

At the moment, the EPPO estimates that VAT fraud alone has spiralled to between €30bn and €60bn per year. “This is money that either should have been paid into the budgets of the member states, or was simply stolen from them.”

Yet, the EPPO appears to be pointing the finger at member states for the blame.

“Especially in the current economic context, it is surprising that we still have to emphasise that combating these organised crime groups with the utmost determination is necessary,” the EPPO complains.

With its first year achievements, the EPPO has called for participating EU member states to set up dedicated specialised units to support investigations.

To that end, the European chief prosecutor has proposed the creation of an elite corps of highly qualified financial fraud investigators. This grouping would be able to work transnationally within the EPPO.

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