In 2020 Italy was the Country with the highest number of investigations relative the use of European funds concluded byEU anti-fraud office (OLAF). To be precise last year they were conducted 13 inquiries, all of them reported in the report office year, of which 9 ended with one recommendation, the mildest of EU measures. In total, the report speaks of 230 investigations conducted in one year, with 375 invitations to the competent national and European authorities. Most of these recommendations concern the recovery of EU funds for an amount of approx 294 million euros.
The inquiries concluded only in 2020 they were 109, and relate to the use of European funds in 37 States different, most of which from outside the EU. Alongside Italy, there are among the states with the highest number of investigations Bulgaria e Hungary, respectively with 8 investigations concluded in 2020, ending with 7 and 4 recommendations to the competent authorities. Next are Germany, Austria, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania.
As happened in the past years, the handling of the procurement procedures and of race per pocket European funds represents one of the main ones trends found by Olaf in 2020. “The fraud mechanisms – reads the official note from Olaf – often concern different Member states and involve complex systems of recycling gods profits obtained illegally“.
The reference is to the emblematic cases of Romania, Italy, Belgium and Spain, in which the recovery of 25 million of Euro intended for road infrastructure. In fact, this money was recycled through interconnected societies and through payments for fictitious services, with gods steps that Olaf deemed suspicious. In particular, among the examples contained in the annual report, there is also fraud against EU research funds, to agriculture and at rural development, as well as fraud against the funds social.
The focus on pandemic scams – In particular, a focus ad-hoc on the pandemic of Coronavirus: the emergency – we read – led to a “sudden and massive increased demand of personal protective equipment“, Which turned out to be”a business opportunity for counterfeiters“. In March 2020, OLAF identified 1000 suspicious operators as potential resellers of counterfeit material. With its action, the Office has thus contributed to the seizure of millions of non-compliant or counterfeit masks and sanitizing gels, as well as kits to perform anti-Covid tests and swabs.
One of the examples given in the report concerns the kidnapping of 140mila l of hand sanitizer counterfeit coming from Turkey. Its composition was suspect due to a very high level of methanol, a chemical that is particularly dangerous to the optic nerve, which commonly causes headaches, blurred vision and nausea. A month after the Danish authorities reported that they first stumbled upon this harmful sanitizer, Olaf identified a suspicious shipment directed to Ireland, intercepting it at the port of Dublin. Continuing with its investigation, the office found out different companies in EU member states that had ordered hand sanitizers from the same Turkish manufacturer, thus untangling the network and supporting the various countries to limit similar problems.