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22nd Apr 2021

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EU anti-fraud office launches probe into Frontex

The EU anti-fraud office Olaf has launched an investigation into the EU's border agency, Frontex.

"Olaf can confirm that it has opened an investigation concerning Frontex," Olaf's press office said in an email, on Monday (11 January).

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  • Fabrice Leggeri is the head of EU's border and coast guard agency, Frontex (Photo: Frontex)

Olaf would not provide any further details.

EUobserver was tipped off to the investigation from an anonymous source, who alleged Olaf had raided the offices of Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri and his chief of cabinet in early December, given alleged misconduct.

EUobserver could not verify if Leggeri is indeed the target of the probe or whether his office was raided.

But a spokesperson from the Warsaw-based agency did not deny the details when asked for a comment.

"In keeping with its policy of transparency, Frontex is cooperating fully with Olaf," said a Frontex spokesperson.

He said Olaf visits to EU agencies in general are "normal practices of good governance" and that they do not imply any malpractice.

"They may also be triggered by the management of European bodies themselves," he said, noting that the agency cannot disclose any details of the investigation.

The probe comes amid increasing Frontex scrutiny, following numerous media reports last year implicating the agency in the push backs of migrants.

The allegations has sparked calls among MEPs to launch an inquiry into the Frontex chief.

Others, including the socialist grouping in the European Parliament, are demanding his resignation.

Those calls followed Leggeri's denial of any wrongdoing in a European Parliament grilling held last December.

The allegations of wrongdoing were detailed in October by German magazine Der Spiegel, as well as broadcaster ARD along with the Bellingcat website and others.

Ylva Johansson, the EU commissioner for home affairs, has also been pressing for responses - as scrutiny of the allegations intensifies while internal inquiries continue.

MEPs seek parliament inquiry into Frontex

Some MEPs now want a formal inquiry into Frontex, plus member states, and the European Commission over allegations of illegal pushbacks. Dutch MEP Tineke Strik says she has so far received backing from the Greens, liberals and far-left GUE.

Frontex takes transparency activists to EU court

The EU border agency Frontex's annual budget for 2020 is €460m. Now they are launching court proceedings against two pro-transparency campaigners for not paying them €24,000 in legal fees after losing a case last year.

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

EU to scrutinise Hungary 'ignoring asylum ruling'

The European Court of Justice told Hungary in December to stop forcing asylum seekers back into Serbia. The European Commission is now demanding Budapest follow the judgement - but Hungary has since reintroduced a special legal order, under Covid-19.

Exclusive

Frontex spent €94,000 on a dinner in Warsaw

The European Border and Coast Guard Day is held every May. The event includes movies, football and volleyball matches between Frontex and national border guards, shooting competitions and exercises to detect smugglers.

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Analysis

Frontex scrutiny on rights violations is a PR stunt

Greece denies any illegal pushbacks at sea. The EU takes their version of events as face value, in a system unable and unwilling to shed doubt on Greek authorities - posing accountability questions on the EU's border guard agency Frontex.

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