Wednesday

27th Jul 2016

EU officials arrested following anti-corruption raid

One European Commission official and one European Parliament assistant were arrested on Wednesday (28 March) facing charges of corruption, in a scandal involving commission tenders for its delegation buildings in Albania and India.

The two, both of Italian nationality, were being held in custody by Belgian authorities following Belgian police raids of commission and parliament offices on Tuesday.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The fraud concerns "millions" of euros, the Belgian prosecutor's office said (Photo: European Commission)

An Italian businessman living just outside Brussels was also arrested on Wednesday.

Jos Colpin at the Belgian prosecutor's office confirmed that the names of the three arrested people are: Giancarlo Ciotti, 46 years old and a commission official; Sergio Tricarico, 39 years old and the assistant of the non-attached MEP Gianni Rivera; Angelo Troiano, 60 years old and a real estate agent as well as general businessman.

Further details of the case were emerging on Wednesday, with the prosecutor's office correcting and specifying some of the earlier information it had given.

Mr Colpin said Tuesday's raids had hit only one commission building in Brussels – not, as reported earlier, commission premises in Luxembourg, Italy and France. Searches in these countries only involved private people, banks and firms.

Commission officials also said the building searched was not the main Berlaymont building, as media had said earlier, but a building housing offices of the external relations (RELEX) department.

Also, the case itself does not concern commission representations within Luxembourg, Italy and France, but delegations of the EU executive outside the EU in Albania and India, Mr Colpin confirmed.

It is suspected that the arrested commission official pocketed bribes from real estate and security companies in return for rewarding them with contracts to rent, equip and secure the commission buildings in New Dehli and Tirana.

According to Germany's Stern magazine, the Italian commission official also got his house renovated in return for granting commission delegation tenders to an Italian business contact.

Mr Colpin at the Brussels prosecutor's office said that the tenders had involved "tens of millions of euros" - which makes the scale of fraud most probably at the the scale of "millions of euros."

The annual budget for commission delegations' buildings abroad stands at around €56 million for 2007.

OLAF, the EU's anti-fraud office, on Wednesday issued a statement saying "it is difficult at this stage to assess the possible financial impact on the EU budget as the services due under the various contracts have been delivered, even though it is suspected that contracts may have been awarded in an irregular manner."

A commission spokesman stressed that "the commission itself" triggered the investigation into the case after it had been tipped off on irregularities by an outside source. Brussels subsequently warned OLAF, which also participated in Tuesday's raids.

"The OLAF internal investigation started in 2004, when a complaint was received from an unsuccessful bidder in a tender procedure," OLAF said in its statement.

Italian paper Corriere della Sera reports that the commission was tipped off by a Finnish construction company which was asked to pay a €345,000 bribe for obtaining a tender for the commission in India.

The commission spokesman said the EU executive applies a "zero tolerance" policy towards corruption, but he added that "we need to respect the presumption of innocence."

It is not the first time that a case of commission in-house corruption emerges, with a scandal involving former French commissioner Edith Cresson leading to the collective resignation of the commission in 1999.

More recently in 2003, a scandal surrounding Eurostat, the EU's statistical office, saw officials creating secret bank accounts for funds from contracts signed with suspect contractors.

But asked to compare the most recent sleaze reports with these earlier cases, the commission spokesman said "I must utterly reject the lumping together of this case with other cases which have absolutely nothing to do with it."

"Here, at the slightest indication, the commission did everything it could to shed light on the situation."

Merkel faces backlash after killings

The German chancellor faces mounting criticism at home for her refugee policy after asylum seekers carried out several attacks over the last week.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceWhat's New in the Investment Plan for Europe: Business as Usual or True Innovation ?
  2. Belgrade Security ForumMigration, Security and Solidarity within Global Disorder: Academic Event 2016
  3. GoogleHow Google Fights Piracy: Creating Value While Fighting Piracy
  4. EJC"My Visit to Israel" - Opinion by MEP Lopez Aguilar, Chair of the EP Working Group on Antisemitism
  5. World VisionChildren Migrating, Out of School and at Work as Hunger Deepens in Southern Africa
  6. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStand-Up (and Exercise) to Prevent Chronic Diseases
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersLaunches a Real-time News Hub Specialised in EU Stakeholders
  8. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen Calls for International Probe Into Turkey Coup Allegations
  9. GoogleEU-US Privacy Shield: Restoring Faith in Data Flows and Transatlantic Relations
  10. World VisionWorld Leaders & Youth Advocates Launch Partnership to End Violence Vs. Children
  11. Counter BalanceReport: Institutionalised Corruption in Romania's Third Largest Company
  12. GoogleLearn about Google's projects across Europe on Twitter @GoogleBrussels