25th Oct 2021

Eurostat officials transferred due to fraud probe

Two high-ranking officials in Eurostat, the EU statistical office, Yves Franchet, its long-serving director-general, and Daniel Byk, director of one of Eurostat's six departments, have been temporarily removed from their post after allegations of fraud involving the two men have come into the open.

"This is not a disciplinary measure", Commission spokesperson Reijo Kemppinen insisted. "The Commission accepted [their request to be removed from their posts] because we want to give them a chance to defend themselves against all allegations".

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Both persons have now been temporarily appointed to Advisor functions in the Directorate-General for Administration.

Various firms involved

Files that Olaf, the EU's anti-fraud office, have passed on to French authorities last March allegedly reveal that the two men are suspected of setting up an account at a Luxembourg savings bank that was used to station up to 900,000 euro in funds - money that should have gone to Eurostat instead.

But this is not the only case in which Mr Franchet is involved. Olaf is also probing into four companies - all of which Yves Franchet has allegedly founded, EUobserver has learnt.

These are CESD-Communautaire, Deba, Eurocost and TES, where the director is married to a directress in Eurostat.

Austrian Socialist MEP Herbert Bösch, who drafted the 2001 report on the Protection of financial interests and the fight against fraud in the EU, had called on the Commission to state whether the Luxembourg-based firm Eurocost is implicated in serious irregularities which has left the Community budget facing a loss of more than 1 million euro.

Eurocost, which is now bankrupt, owes money to the Commission which might be difficult to recover.

Six Eurostat investigations

Olaf has opened a total of six investigations, two of which have been closed and handed over to the Luxembourg prosecuting authorities July last year. These cases concern possible fraud regarding contracts concluded between Eurostat and private companies, which could result into criminal proceedings.

Was Schreyer aware?

The Commission has asked the Directorate General for Budget to analyse the audit reports drafted by Eurostat related to the on-going investigation by Olaf.

But questions have been raised as to whether Budget Commissioner Michaele Schreyer was already in possession of these reports before the European Parliament approved the 2001 EU accounts.

The Commission said it would issue a statement on this issue as soon as possible.

Commission spokesperson Mr Kemppinen said that Olaf intends to report back on the potential involvement of Commission officials in the on-going investigation by the end of June this year.

But when contacted, Olaf declined to comment on the on-going investigation.

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