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OLAF reaffirms its competence to investigate members of the European Parliament
According to a report in The Sunday Times issued on 20 March 2011 three Members of the European Parliament (MEP) agreed to put forward amendments to draft legislation in the European Parliament in return for a fee. OLAF evaluated this report as well as information from other sources and decided to open a formal investigation immediately. This swift decision was taken in view of potential damage to the reputation of the European institutions, the public interest in clarifying this matter and the need to prevent potential evidence from being destroyed. It should be noted that even if a certain natural or legal person is subject to an investigation by OLAF, it does not necessarily imply that this person is guilty of any wrongdoing whatsoever. This statement is issued to clarify OLAF’s mandate to conduct this investigation.
Within the framework of this investigation, OLAF investigators attempted to collect evidence from the offices of the concerned MEPs located at the premises of the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday 22 March. As stipulated in the applicable legislation, the investigators presented themselves to the relevant authorities of the European Parliament and notified them of their intention to make an immediate inspection of the offices of the concerned MEPs.
European Parliament (EP) authorities refused to give access to these offices and claimed these would be secured by European Parliament security personnel. OLAF was at the same time informed that the European Parliament would conduct an internal consultation to evaluate OLAF’s request.
OLAF received an official written reply from the President of the European Parliament on Thursday 24 March stating that it would not agree to an investigation on its premises and requesting additional explanation of OLAF’s competence to investigate. OLAF duly sent a legal justification of its mandate to conduct an investigation at the European Parliament on Friday 25 March.
OLAF investigations are carried out on the basis of competences defined in Article 325 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Regulation 1073/1999 of the European Parliament and the Council. The Regulation states that the purpose of OLAF investigations are “fighting fraud, corruption and any other illegal activity affecting the financial interests of the European Community” and “to investigate serious facts linked to the performance of professional activities which may constitute a breach of obligation (…) likely to lead to disciplinary and, in appropriate cases, criminal proceedings or an analogous breach of obligations of Members of the institutions (…)”.
The Interinstitutional Agreement between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission further clarifies that OLAF’s responsibility “extends beyond the protection of financial interests to include all activities relating to the need to safeguard Community interests against irregular conduct”. This agreement specifies OLAF’s competence to carry out internal investigations on Members of the European Parliament. Furthermore, this competence is set out in detail in the European Parliament’s own Rules of Procedure.
OLAF continues to pursue other investigative actions within the context of its investigation and expects the European Parliament to preserve the potential evidence until it can be examined by OLAF investigators.
OLAF’s (European Anti-Fraud Office) mission is fighting fraud, corruption and any other illegal activity affecting the financial interests of the European Union, including misconduct within the European Institutions. OLAF is part of the European Commission, but remains independent in its operational and investigative functions.
For further details:
European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)
Phone: +32 2 296 72 00