EU officials interrogated after anti-corruption raids
27.03.07 @ 17:40
BRUSSELS - European Commission officials were being interrogated by Belgian police on Tuesday afternoon (27 March) following surprise raids by police on commission buildings.
Jos Colpin at the Brussels prosecutor's office told EUobserver the officials arrested on Tuesday are suspected of "passive corruption," or taking "bribes" from real estate and security firms.
The officials being interrogated - the number of which is not being made public - possibly "circumvented normal tendering procedures" involving the commission's representation premises in Luxembourg, France and Italy.
The civil servants are suspected of pocketing bribes from real estate and security companies in return for rewarding them contracts to rent and secure the commission buildings.
More than 150 police were involved in Tuesday's cross-border police operation, which started in the early morning and which saw searches in the commission's main Berlaymont building in Brussels, as well as in the representations in Luxembourg, France and Italy.
In total, more than 30 raids were carried out, including of "people at home," firms and banks, according to a Brussels prosecutor's office statement, with police taking several documents for investigation.
The office of a European Parliament assistant was also searched, with parliament officials however declining to comment on the reason for the apparent involvement of the assistant.
A commission spokesman confirmed the raids in commission buildings, but refused to comment on the affair other than saying the commission is "fully co-operating" in the investigations.
The EU's independent anti-fraud office, OLAF, took part in the investigations, he added.
Belgian Prosecutor Berta Bernando-Mendez started investigations into the case three years ago, leading to Tuesday's operation which was spearheaded by the Belgian police's anti-corruption unit and which also saw the participation of Italian and French police.
It will be decided before Wednesday morning 06:00 CET whether any official will be held in custody for further interrogation, Mr Colpin said.