Monday

16th Jul 2018

OLAF to investigate leaked classified report

  • Paul van Buitenen denied suggestions that he leaked his report to OLAF to the press, telling the EUobserver.com that such accounts were "defamatory to the extent of being libellous". (Photo: EUobserver)

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) decided to start an internal investigation concerning a leak of confidential information to the press on the Paul van Buitenen affair and to check allegations that a journalist obtained the classified document after paying an official. If, following investigations, evidence of such offence is found, “the office will open disciplinary proceedings and will inform the competent judicial authorities.”

The leading whistleblower Paul van Buitenen, who contributed to the fall of the Santer commission in 1999 over scandals of corruption and fraud, sent to the European Anti-Fraud Office and to the Commission’s Directorate General for Administration a new report unveiling alleged wrongdoing in the Commission. The Commission and OLAF published two press releases with no details on the cases under investigation, but journalists have obtained a number of documents related to the “van Buitenen” affair.

OLAF opened four investigations after van Buitenen report

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The 234 pages-report compiled by Mr van Buitenen, sent to OLAF in August 2001, with 5000 pages of annexes, contained detailed information on alleged fraud and irregularities within the Commission. The document pointed to 270 cases of wrongdoing in the Commission. The EU anti-fraud office decided to open four investigations on the basis of the information contained in the van Buitenen document. One is an external investigation related to the use of European Social Fund money in a member state, according to a Commission statement, the others are internal investigations relating to UCLAF’s (OLAF’s predecessor), the Centre International de Formation Européenne and special inspectors. The Commission adds that the issues under investigation arose before the Prodi Commission took office in 1999.

Report and OLAF analysis leaked to the press

Despite strict EU rules concerning the secrecy of investigations, the report compiled by Mr van Buitenen, as well as the assessment of the report by European Anti-Fraud Office, were leaked to the press. Allegations that a journalist paid a Commission’s official to get the report are set to spark a scandal in Brussels, but OLAF explained it decided to reveal this information in a press release “because of numerous rumours and speculation on the part of media in recent days”.

The object of the leaked report is to advise whether any action should be taken by OLAF following the note sent by Mr van Buitenen. The report presents the methodology of assessing the note, the analysis of allegations, and proposals and recommendations. The alleged cases of wrongdoing revealed in the van Buitenen report relate to ECHO (the EU humanitarian aid office) action in Latin America, to the cabinet of former commissioner Edith Cresson, to the building policy of the European institutions, to Leonardo da Vinci (vocational training) programme.

Investigation

What is 'SECRET UE' anyway?

EU countries have a protocol for sharing official "secrets." But motives for classifying files are not always pure and the number of really hush hush papers in Brussels is tiny.

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