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Romania – champion of OLAF’s requests for opening criminal cases and recovering embezzled funds

de Mariana Bechir , 27.11.2017

Classic fraud scheme in public procurement

The Tel Drum case file in which Liviu Dragnea is accused is just one of the 11 cases in which the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) recommended last year the recovery of the European funds granted to Romania.

The first position in the 2016 ranking of OLAF’s recommendations is shared by Romania and its neighbour Hungary, for which the office has also issued 11 requests.

Regarding the amounts identified as being defrauded and for which the recovery has been requested, a case in Hungary stands out – in 2016, the OLAF investigation into the EUR 1.7 billion project for the Budapest metro line 4 was completed.

The investigation, which has been carried out in Hungary and the UK, ended with the recommendation to recover EUR 228 million of European funds and EUR 55 million from the European Investment Bank.

Overall, last year, OLAF closed investigations in 219 cases and made 346 recommendations, including the recovery of a total of EUR 631 million. The record in the amounts set to be refunded was registered in 2014 when the total was over EUR 900 million.

The number of recommendations exceeds the number of case files, as there may be several recommendations for one case file – for example, in the Tel Drum file, it was recommended that national authorities trigger criminal investigations as well as the recovery of the amount.

OLAF recommendations for the recovery of the defrauded European funds are addressed to the specialized directorates-general of the European Commission, which asks the countries referred to return the money.

National authorities may recover damages through open court actions in those cases.

Romania, first position during whole 2009 – 2016 period

In fact, Romania ranks first in the EU bloc by the number of indictments made on OLAF’s recommendation and the number of cases in which the judicial authorities rejected a case, in the whole 2009-2016 period.

Out of 102 recommendations, the Romanian authorities launched investigations in 74 cases and the courts pronounced convictions in 24 of these cases:

It should be noted that in the category of the 28 cases in which no decision has been made, statistics are no longer actual. In these situations, there is a reporting period of 12 months, which will only be completed by the end of this year.

The Tel Drum file in which the PSD leader is also prosecuted is one of the cases not included in this statistic, for example.

According to the OLAF data, only two reports on possible frauds came last year from the Romanian authorities, while 33 reports came from private sources (most of them in the EU).

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