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24th Jun 2018

Departure of EU's under-fire fraud chief was 'neutral'

  • Olaf's director-general is leaving his post for a new job next week. (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The head of EU's anti-fraud office Olaf, Giovanni Kessler, would have been moved to an advisor role with no executive responsibilities at the European Commission, had he decided not to leave for a new job in Rome.

EU budget commissioner Guenther Oettinger told MEPs on Wednesday (11 October) that Kessler next March would have automatically been given a position as a so-called "hors-classe advisor" at the EU commission with a top pay grade had he not been hired in Rome to oversee Italy's customs and monopoly agency.

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"He would probably have become a hors-classe advisor, with full expenses on our payroll," he said.

Oettinger's comments follows moves by the EU commission to release Kessler from his current post as Olaf's director-general, whose term in the job was already coming to an end. Kessler had been appointed to the seven-year non renewable Olaf position in early 2011.

But Kessler had also earlier last year threatened to sue the EU commission, after it lifted his immunity following demands by the Belgian public prosecutor given broader allegations he had illegally eavesdropped on telephone calls.

Those calls were during a 2012 investigation that led Malta's John Dalli, who was at the time EU health commissioner, to step down in a scandal also known as Dalligate.

With his immunity lifted, Kessler took his case against the European Commission to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The court has yet to make any decision.

Despite the internal turmoil, Oettinger maintains that the EU commission's decision to release Kessler to Rome was "completely neutral".

"On the 16th or 17th of October, he will take up his post there in Rome. So we were completely neutral. There was no activity by the Commission," he said.

Nicholas Ilett will be Olaf's acting director-general as of 16 October and until someone else is appointed on a more permanent basis.

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