The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) case against the head of the New Democracy party delegation in the European Parliament, Manolis Kefalogiannis continues, as New Europe uncovered last month. Hundreds of documents in the form of emails, statements, are in the possession of OLAF. New Europe is able to confirm that this includes an hour-long audio recording that after requesting a legal opinion OLAF services have accepted, and have found to be admissible both for the purposes of European and national legal use.
Kefalogiannis, for the time being, enjoys the trust of New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has given the green light for him to run for a new term as MEP with New Democracy. The party confirmed he will be on the New Democracy party list again last month.
Emails in the possession of New Europe, exchanged between staff members at Kefalogiannis’ office shed light on only one of the issues of the case, painting a picture of Accredited Parliamentary Assistants (APAs) who are according to EC Regulation 160/2009 required to be working in the European Parliament premises, but who were in fact not living in Brussels, present to sign contracts, or even aware of the office floor and number they were supposed to be working at. The emails uncover the mechanisms that were in place so that the European Parliament and third parties remained in the dark while taxpayer money paid the APAs’ salaries.
In an email dated 4 January 2016, a newly hired APA who did not reside in Brussels emails asking for help in Greek. Translated portions of the emails follow:
‘I will need to come to Brussels one more time. I am counting on 18-22 but I haven’t decided yet’, the APA writes, after which a stream of instructions follows. ‘You’ll need to enter your intranet (for the personnel) for the activation of my email and everything else that needs to be done’ … ‘on a daily basis as I was given to understand in meetings that I had with human resources’ (emphases in original). The instructions go on to discuss protocols for passwords, before coming to doubts about remote email access. ‘I don’t know if I can distantly enter to check emails etc because it’s possible that they will ask for things – as they told me – such as other documents or anything.’ The word “distantly” was written in the English language. ‘If it’s not possible’, the email continues ‘then you will have to [check my email] in regular intervals and if necessary for me to be aware forward it to me on my personal email.’
Accredited Parliamentary Assistants work in the European Parliament (so mostly Brussels) and are hired under a European contract (with a special status different from the civil servants). Local assistants on the other hand work in the MEP’s constituency and are hired under a national contract (with the associated law and taxes that go with it).
In the next point of the email, the distant APA asks for the office floor and number of Manolis where ‘I am supposed to be so I know it if someone contacts me.’ Concerned for the omerta needed, the APA asks for the ‘girls in the office to be made aware’ in case someone shows up asking after them.
At the end of the email, the APA summarizes the help needed, and closes: ‘You inform the your office of “my existence” and send whatever email/information I need to know…’.
This is only one of the several issues OLAF is looking into regarding Kefalogiannis.
Another stream of emails concerning a second permanently absent APA who New Europe is told also did not live in Brussels shows the reluctance of the staffer to make the expensive trip from Greece to Brussels to sign the renewal of their contract.
The first of the emails obtained which is dated 12 December, 2014 and written in block capitals in Greek, asks a member of staff who is physically in Brussels if they can go to human resources to pick up the renewed contract of another APA who wants to avoid making the trip to Brussels. This follows an email from an EP/DG PERS representative On 1 December 2014, calling on the APA to come sign the extension of their contract. The missing-in-action APA concerned follows up with another email to the Kefalogiannis APA in Brussels on 18 December 2014, referring to the emails sent to the “idiot” (roughly translated) in human resources – who was just trying to do their job by the book.
The case is ongoing, but questions are being raised as to whether political pressure is slowing down the progress so that nothing moves forward till after the European elections.
More on the audio evidence, and other OLAF investigations which are yet to reach the public domain, to follow by Kassandra.