European Public Prosecutor’s Office investigates €5.4 billion worth of loss to the EU budget in its first 7 months of activity
While many expected a slow start followed by a gradual increase in activity, the EPPO worked at full speed from Day 1. The EPPO is a systemic part of the overall architecture put in place to protect EU taxpayers’ money.
Laura Kövesi, European Chief Prosecutor: "European cannot mean weak! The EPPO is a very powerful tool for protecting expenditures as well as revenues of the EU budget by means of criminal law. 20 years after the Euro zone, we have created the EPPO zone. Embedded in the national judiciaries of the 22 participating Member States, the EPPO is in the first line of defence of the rule of law in the EU. The first 7 months of our operations made at least one thing clear: if we are hindered in the exercise of our competence, the protection of the EU budget is at stake."
2021 in numbers
Some of the key figures featured in the annual report, valid on 31 December 2021:
- 2832 crime reports were processed;
- 576 investigations opened since 1 June 2021;
- 515 active investigations on 31 December 2021;
- €5.4 billion estimated damages in the active investigations;
- €147.3 million in seizures, three times the EPPO’s actual 2021 budget;
- 95 European Delegated Prosecutors were appointed, working in 35 EPPO offices in the 22 participating Member States;
- 122 staff members in the central office in Luxembourg.
Of the 576 investigations opened in 2021, 298 were new cases initiated by the EPPO, and 278 were so-called backlog cases reported by the national authorities and taken over by the EPPO.
More detailed statistics, per participating Member State, are available here.
Most frequent types of crimes
The EPPO focuses on complex, cross-border investigations into sophisticated economic and financial crime, in particular where serious organised crime is involved. It investigates fraud involving EU funds of over €10 000 and cross-border VAT fraud with damages above €10 million.
Of the 515 active investigations, we have identified the following as the most frequent types of crimes affecting the EU budget:
- Non-procurement expenditure fraud (31.8%): use or presentation of false, incorrect or incomplete statements or documents, common in agricultural subsidies.
- VAT revenue fraud (17.6%): carousel fraud, VAT fraud through missing traders, and VAT fraud committed within a criminal organisation.
- Non-VAT revenue fraud (13.4%): customs and anti-dumping duties fraud.
- Procurement expenditure fraud (11.2%): the use or presentation of false, incorrect or incomplete statements or documents, mainly in construction, waste, technology and HR development programmes.
- Corruption (4%): active and passive corruption of public officials.
Excellent and efficient cross-border cooperation
Law enforcement actors across the EU have discovered the speed, efficiency and information gains they can expect when working with the EPPO, compared to traditional mutual legal assistance arrangements and cross-border coordination methods. Because of the EPPO’s independence and cross-border competences, the organisation of coordinated searches or arrests across borders has been a matter of weeks, instead of months.
Improving the level of protection of the financial interests of the EU starts with increasing the level of detection of EU fraud. Differences between Member States in this regard have been significant for a long time, and the EPPO is committed to closing these gaps with the support of its national and international partners.
Investigating, prosecuting and bringing to judgment crimes against the financial interests of the EU is the EPPO’s mission, and it will continue to identify shortcomings and analyse any challenges that arise in our ultimate aim of protecting EU taxpayers’ money from criminals.
Cooperation with partners, non-participating EU Member States and third countries
To allow for a quicker exchange of information, the EPPO signed working arrangements with the European Commission, Eurojust, Europol, OLAF, the European Court of Auditors, the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund.
Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, Poland and Sweden are not participating in the EPPO. In 2021, these five Member States were involved in 48 EPPO cases. The cooperation with Sweden runs without difficulties because of the relevant EU acts on judicial cooperation in criminal matters. A working arrangement with the Office of the Prosecutor General of Hungary was signed in April 2021. However, both Danish and Irish authorities still need time for internal consultations, and the negotiations regarding a working arrangement with the National Prosecutor’s Office of Poland were unsuccessful.
As regards third countries, the EPPO initiated negotiations with the aim of concluding working arrangements with the relevant authorities of the United States of America and Ukraine.
The full 2021 annual report can be downloaded here