More than 1bn euros of EU funds used for fraud in 2023

The European anti-fraud office, OLAF, has found that more than 1 billion euros of EU money was used for fraudulent purposes in 2023. The independent investigative body published its latest annual report on Tuesday.

OLAF's main task is to investigate possible cases of fraud and corruption involving money from the EU budget. It then passes on its findings to the relevant European and national authorities.

In 2003, it recommended that these authorities recover a total of 1.04 billion euros. Investigators uncovered a further 209 million euros that was at risk of being misused but had not yet been spent.

OLAF opened 190 new cases last year. During the same period, it closed 265 investigations, resulting in 309 recommendations to the competent judicial authorities, including the recovery of fraudulently spent European funds. Of these closed investigations, 44 concerned illegal activities by staff of the EU institutions.

"These investigations should ensure that everyone adheres to the highest standards of conduct, as EU citizens rightly expect, and help protect the reputation of the EU as a whole," the report says.

Digital fraud on the rise

OLAF identified a large number of attempted frauds related to customs. In 2023, it was able to stop the import of counterfeit medicines, half a million counterfeit and/or dangerous toys, 6 million litres of illegal alcoholic beverages and thousands of tonnes of illegal waste.

The report also notes that the trend of digital fraud and irregularities continues to grow. The areas in which the office was active ranged from regional development aid to agriculture and research and development.

Investigations were under way last year in all 27 EU member states, including Belgium. According to L'Echo, it has paid more than 251 million euros to the European Commission to compensate for the "undervaluation of textiles and footwear of Chinese origin".



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