Probe into claims that EU funds were transferred to terrorists
The EU anti-fraud office Olaf and the Belgian police are investigating claims that EU funds may have been channelled to a Palestinian militant group responsible for the deaths of scores of people in suicide bombings.
The investigations follow claims that money earmarked for aid was paid to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades through Belgian and German affiliate organisations.
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The Independent reported that the inquiry began in Aachen, Germany, but also involves an organisation based in Verviers, eastern Belgium.
The allegation is that groups asked for EU subsidies for an immigration project but that the money was then transferred towards Al-Aqsa, which is on the EU’s list of banned terrorist organisations.
No evidence so far
A spokesperson for Olaf told the EUobserver that at the moment no evidence has been found to substantiate these claims.
This probe, which was first reported in the German magazine Stern, is one of several being conducted by the Belgian authorities into the funding of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the Independent said.
The Belgian Federal Court, however, could not comment on the current investigations.
The Commission spokesperson for external relations on the other hand said the Commission is "the first one with an interest to make sure that no EU funding is diverted to support terrorist organisations".
Investigations since February
MEPs expressed concerns at the beginning of the year that EU budgetary support to the Palestinian Authority may have been directed to fund terrorist activities. Last February, Olaf opened an investigation into these allegations.
The European Parliament also set up at that time a working group to investigate these claims but sources said that no evidence has been produced so far.
In April, the Commission announced changes to the way in which it provides aid to the Palestinian Authority, while denying claims that the changes were prompted by these allegations.
The Commission decided to supply 80 million euro each year specifically for the Authority to repay debts owed to small private enterprises and social services with the addition of 10 million to aid the peace process.
Previously, funding from the EU was not earmarked for specific projects and went into the central Palestinian budget.