An OLAF investigation revealed that more than €400,000 provided by the Commission’s Research Executive Agency (REA) to a consortium of SMEs in France, Romania, Spain and Ireland with the purpose of improving forest-fire detection were used for a casino/hotel project in Cyprus.
As the project progressed, REA had concerns that some claims for personnel costs submitted by the consortium might be false and reported these suspicions to Europe’s anti-fraud office (OLAF).
OLAF, following coordination with the relevant national authorities, on-the-spot checks and digital forensic operations, concluded that the initial funding application and the subsequent progress reports by SMEs were based on lies and justified by false documents, and that the consortium of SMEs never had the operational capacity to carry out the project.
In an announcement on its website, OLAF said that protecting EU spending on vital environmental research has been a long-standing investigative priority.
“With the EU focusing increasingly on environment and climate change, we have to make sure that money supposed to be used to improve our understanding of climate change and develop vital tools to help us tackle it, is used exactly for this purpose,” said OLAF’s Director General Ville Itälä.
The investigation that concluded in November 2019, recommended to REA to recover €410,000 from the consortium and asked the competent national judicial authorities to initiate judicial proceedings against the individuals involved.