OLAF-reportEUROPE: Funding for a refrigeration plant in Bulgaria was amongst nearly €900m of EU money alleged to have been “inappropriately spent” last year.

A report by OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office, alleges that €888.1m of the EU’s total spending of €141.28bn, was inappropriately spent in 2015. This was less than last year’s €901m but more than double that of 2013.

Amongst the cases highlighted concerned the modernisation of a Bulgarian fruit and vegetables refrigeration plant, which had received €1.3m from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

The companies and individuals involved have not been named but criminal proceedings are said to be in course in Italy and Bulgaria.

Working on a tip-off from the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development of the European Commission, OLAF obtained documents from the Bulgarian Paying Agency which pointed to the fraudulent inflation of prices and misappropriation of EU funds.

Subsequent investigations are said to have confirmed the allegations and lead to the finding that the entire project was ineligible for EU funding.

The Bulgarian beneficiary plant was owned by an Italian company, managed by an Italian citizen. The same Italian citizen was also the beneficial owner and manager of the company which won the procurement procedure for the machinery. OLAF claims the winning tenderer was in fact a shell company which simply sold on finished equipment, thus acting as a mere intermediary. The manipulated procurement procedure resulted in a supply to the beneficiary at a substantially inflated price.