After last week’s revelations that the European Commission, specifically the International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO), was financing a “non-entity,” which claimed to be an “International Organisation” for years, we received several pieces of information on this matter. Let’s not forget that so far, DEVCO has disbursed €135m while the disbursement of another €22m was blocked at the very last moment.
At first glance, the issue looks simple. On 9 September 2011, OLAF received information from an anonymous informant about the alleged irregularities involving the EU representation in Jerusalem and the International Management Group (IMG) and decided to open an investigation. OLAF decided to split the investigation into two separate cases: one external and one internal.
The internal investigation relates to the European Commission officials involved in the case, as it seems some of these key officials involved with the case through DEVCO, have subsequently (after retiring) gotten jobs at IMG.
We are looking forward to see the results of the second investigation and in particular how the retired officials were paid by IMG (if they were paid) and whether there is a conflict of interest.
From what we hear, only a few documents might be available at DEVCO, but the records of the European Commission payments to IMG (through a French bank) certainly do exist.
Following the completion of the external investigation on December 12th, 2014, OLAF transmitted its final report to the Secretariat General of the Commission as well as to Belgian and French prosecutors.
The reactions of the Commission were mixed.
It appears that certain quarters in the Services, suffering from the “Omerta” (or Stockholm) syndrome, are trying to bury the matter.
To this effect, while we learn there are very fervent activities at DEVCO in order to make some of the documents related to the affair disappear, the Legal Service went another step. On January 15, Director General Luis Romero Requena issued a confidential “Note for the file” challenging the OLAF report. From this “note” we have learned new ethic principles.
The Director General has invited the Commission to disregard the OLAF report, calling it non-binding. At the same time it suggests that, for the sake of discussion, IMG is an International Organisation (which it is clearly not).
Thus the Legal Service has objections that fraudulent activities or money laundering were committed.
The justification, according to the Director General, is that the money channelled to IMG was not coming from criminal activities.
This is correct. The Commission’s money comes from the Community budget, not from drugs or prostitution, but what is important is how the money ended up in a private bank account in Paris, controlled by tax residents of Serbia and what the course of this money was after it was transferred to France. This detail is omitted from the “note” of the Legal Service.
In this context, we must admit that the only interest the Director General of the Legal Service apparently has is to protect the image and the reputation of the “house” in these difficult and critical times for Europe.
This may explain why he personally took the initiative to try to close the case and keep it within the “house,” while never being involved with the case personally.
European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, when he became aware of the doubts surrounding OLAF, in February 2014 – before the OLAF investigation was concluded (the OLAF report was released to the Commission 12 December 2014), blocked all future contracts. Upon the release of the OLAF report, the Commission centralised all payments and all contracts while it is verifying all activities related to any pending payments to IMG.
Of course, in a big organisation such as the European Commission it is not easy to control everything at once, as is for instance the case that the EU Representation in Serbia which includes IMG in the short list of organisations that participate for the award of a contract concerning organisation of the judicial academy of Serbia.
However, news is spreading around and after the tough stance exhibited by the President of the Commission everything will be fixed with only criterion the truth.
Truth is the strongest political weapon and Juncker, with truth as his only weapon, keeping in mind the interests of the European citizens, is emerging as the “game changer” at a time when Europe is desperately searching for political leaders.
In this context, we learn that the President of the Commission has sent a detailed confidential debriefing to the President of the Parliament Martin Shultz while Vice President Kristalina Georgieva has informed in detail the College.
It should be said that on the same subject, OLAF and the Commission were also informed in 2008 but no investigation was launched at the time. This time, OLAF opened the investigation on its own initiative.
The Commission did not intervene, allowing investigators to do their job and once the report was concluded, the President of the Commission took proper action, acting not only as head of the European administration but primarily as the political leader of Europe.