Days after three journalists were arrested in Greece following a report that Athens’ Defence Minister Panos Kammenos had misused EU migration funds, Brussels has confirmed that the European Anti-Fraud Agency (OLAF), is looking into the case after looking into a €52 million grant for a project that started in August 2016.
A source from the Commission said the case involving the Greek Defence ministry was the only known example of irregularities that were sent to OLAF after 2017’s annual Directorate-General of Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME).
Two cases sent to OLAF according to report
Last year’s report was published by DG HOME – which is responsible for carrying out migration and asylum issues, as well as border and security policy for the Commission. DG Home on April 30 published a report outlining as the development and implementation of its own anti-fraud strategy, based on the methodology provided by OLAF.
According to the annual report, two fraud cases tied to certain irregularities were handed over to OLAF for analysis, while DG HOME continued to provide information and assist the investigation.
The €52 million grant in question does not fall under DG HOME audit scope not subjected to this procedure due to the fact that the Commission handles emergency assistance grants in a different way.
In order to refund the works subjected to this grant, the European Commission looks into whether the project is actually being carried out according to the original plans. The Commission visited this particular project on two separate occasions – in late-2016 and mid-2017 – to determine if the catering companies that had been contracted were giving food out to asylum seekers in camps and hot spots.
The Greek press had been looking into activities of the catering companies beginning in March 2017. The investigative journalists’ reports revealed that the companies were making illegal profits off the EU funds that they were receiving.
“OLAF cannot issue any further comment at this stage in order to protect the confidentiality of on-going, and possible ensuing investigations and subsequent judicial proceedings,” the agency’s press office told New Europe. “The fact that OLAF is looking into the matter does not mean that any-one person or entity involved has committed an irregularity or fraud. OLAF fully respects the presumption of innocence.”