EC proposes new rules for OLAF as a close partner of the European Public Prosecutor's Office
The creation of a European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) marks the beginning of a new phase in the fight against fraud affecting the EU budget.
In this context, the European Commission yesterday proposed to amend Regulation (EU, Euratom) 883/2013 concerning investigations conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). The amendment seeks to ensure that OLAF is equipped to work closely with the EPPO to detect and investigate fraud across the EU. The proposed changes will also clarify OLAF's tools for the conduct of administrative investigations with a view to ensuring their effectiveness. This concerns in particular checks and inspections, access to bank account information, as well as the tools to fight VAT fraud.
"The budget is truly about EU added value. We must ensure that every cent is spent to the benefit of our citizens. This means that the fight against fraud and corruption needs to be more vigorous than ever. We need to ensure that OLAF is fit for purpose and that it works alongside the EPPO in a smooth and efficient manner. We need to maintain a strong OLAF that complements the EPPO's criminal law approach with solid administrative investigations." said Günther H. Oettinger, European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources.
The EPPO will have the power to investigate and prosecute criminal cases affecting the EU budget, such as corruption or fraud with EU funds, or cross-border VAT fraud.
Yesterday's proposal to amend Regulation 883/2013 aims to ensure that OLAF becomes a close and reliable partner of the EPPO, and that it continues to conduct administrative investigations to complement the EPPO's work. OLAF will thus continue playing an essential role in the protection of the Union's financial interests. The EPPO and OLAF will work in close partnership to ensure – through their distinct but complementary mandates - that all available means are used to counter fraud and to protect taxpayers' money.
In the Member States participating in the EPPO, OLAF's investigations will focus on facilitating administrative recovery and preventing further harm to the EU finances through administrative measures. This will supplement the EPPO's criminal law approach, where appropriate in close consultation with EPPO. When OLAF uncovers possible criminal offences, it will report them without delay to the EPPO, and support the EPPO's investigations on its request.
OLAF will also continue to investigate non-fraudulent irregularities (for which the EPPO will not be competent) in all Member States. In 2016, these represented 93% of all reported irregularities, with a financial impact of approximately € 2.58 billion. Moreover, OLAF will continue its investigations into fraud and corruption in the Member States not participating in the EPPO.
To this end, the proposal introduces the necessary provisions in the OLAF legal framework to govern the exchange of information with the EPPO, to offer support to EPPO investigations, to ensure complementarity of action and the non-duplication of investigative work. In addition, the amendment provides for a number of limited but important clarifications that will strengthen the effectiveness of OLAF's administrative investigations, based on the recent evaluation conducted by the Commission. The focus is on concrete areas where, today, the lack of clarity in the current Regulation creates obstacles that hinder the effectiveness of OLAF's investigations. The amendment includes rules to improve the conduct of on-the-spot checks and inspections, which are the centre-piece of OLAF's powers and vitally important to uncovering evidence to prove or disprove suspected illegal conduct. It foresees to grant OLAF with access to bank account information in order to identify the money flows in increasingly sophisticated forms of fraud, and to provide OLAF with necessary tools to fulfil its mandate in the area of VAT.
Yesterday's proposal is another step in the Commission's efforts to strengthen the protection of the Union's financial interests, after the adoption of two major legislative acts in 2017 – the Regulation implementing enhanced cooperation on the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) and the Directive on the fight against fraud to the Union's financial interests by means of criminal law.
 Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council: Protection of the European Union's financial interests - Fight against fraud, 2016 Annual Report, COM(2017)383 of 20.07.2017.
 Council Regulation (EU) 2017/1939 of 12.10.2017 implementing enhanced cooperation on the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor's Office (‘the EPPO'), OJ L 283, 31.10.2017, p. 1–71.
 Directive (EU) 2017/1371 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2017 on the fight against fraud to the Union's financial interests by means of criminal law, OJ L 198, 28.7.2017, p. 29–41.
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