The OLAF Report 2020

Vital work to keep EU citizens safe from counterfeit or substandard medical equipment linked to the coronavirus pandemic was one of the activities that marked 2020 for the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).

Adapting its working methods to the challenges posed by lockdown and travel restrictions, OLAF continued its investigations to protect the EU budget from complex fraud schemes, counterfeiting, smuggling, corruption and conflicts of interest. With over 200 investigations closed, and more than €293 million recommended for recovery, OLAF continued to ensure EU money is spent how and where it is meant to – for the benefit of everyone.

Trends in anti-fraud investigations:

Counterfeiters saw major business opportunities as the COVID-19 pandemic led to a sudden and massive increase in demand for personal protective equipment. OLAF has been on their trail since March 2020, and so far has identified over 1,000 suspicious operators and helped seize millions of substandard or counterfeit items related to the pandemic – in particular face masks but also hand sanitisers and testing kits.

In addition to counterfeit medical goods and personal protection equipment linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, OLAF’s investigators detected a number of other trends in fraudulent activity during 2020, the annual report shows. These include:

• Conflicts of interest & collusion between beneficiaries and contractors, in particular in the area of public
• False or inflated invoices, corruption and conflicts of interest targeting agricultural and rural development
funding, often associated with money laundering
• Fraud with research funding
• Cigarette and tobacco smuggling
• Fraud affecting the environment and biodiversity

OLAF's investigative performance in 2020:
• OLAF concluded 230 investigations, issuing 375 recommendations to the relevant national and EU
• OLAF recommended the recovery of €293.4 million to the EU budget
• OLAF opened 290 new investigations, following 1,098 preliminary analyses carried out by OLAF experts

Data concerning Austria:
During the period 2016-2020 Austrian authorities detected 259 fraudulent and non-fraudulent irregularities in the area of Traditional Own Resources (TOR) and 177 fraudulent and non-fraudulent irregularities in the areas of European Structural and Investment Funds and Agriculture and Rural Development Funds, representing 2.08% and 0.20% of payments respectively. During the same period, OLAF closed 8 investigations with recommendations in the area of TORs and 2 investigations in the areas of European Structural and Investment Funds and Agriculture and Rural Development Funds, representing 0.54% of TOR collected and 0.02% of payments.
Concerning OLAF’s recommendations issued between 1 January 2016 and 31 December 2020, Austrian judicial authorities took 4 decisions, including 3 dismissals and 1 indictment.

First Anti-Corruption Seminar

A novelty for OLAF in 2020 was the first Anti-Corruption Seminar, held virtually, to mark International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December. The event brought together more than 900 staff members from the European Commission, most working in delegations in 45 countries across the globe. The aim of the event was to learn from OLAF investigators how to spot, report and tackle corruption that could affect European funds invested outside the EU.


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Article #: 18769 from Montag, 28. Juni 2021, 10:45
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