Police conduct raids in EU corruption investigation

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by Blogg, Mar 28, 2007.

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  1. Given the scale of corruption within the European Commission, could do with more efforts like this.

    Must be about time for Inspector Knacker of the Yard to visit to No 10 again....

    BRUSSELS: Scores of police officers in Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Italy raided European Commission headquarters, banks, company offices and homes Thursday in what Belgian prosecutors called an investigation into alleged corruption at the commission, the European Union's executive branch.

    The Brussels Prosecutors Office said three people had been detained in the raids, which included searches by more than 150 federal officers of the commission's sprawling headquarters in Brussels as well as an office of an aide to the Parliament. It said the judge involved in the case had not yet decided whether those detained would be arrested.

    In total, 30 properties were raided in Belgium and about a dozen in Italy, according to the Belgian police. The Prosecutors Office said the raids, in which investigators seized dozens of documents, had taken place at dawn to ensure the element of surprise.

    Prosecutors said the raids were part of a three-year-old investigation into contracts for commission housing and security equipment aimed at housing commission delegations abroad. They said investigators were examining whether EU civil servants had links to organized crime, had violated professional secrets or had breached public procurement laws.

    "The investigation involves suspected bribery of European civil servants, forming a criminal organization, violating professional secrecy, breaches of public tenders laws and forgery," the Brussels Prosecutors office said in a statement.

    A French police spokesman told Bloomberg News that the case involved two Italian members of the European Parliament and an alleged connection to organized crime.

    The European Commission declined to comment specifically on the allegations.

    "It would be inappropriate for the commission to comment on any aspects of the investigation," said Johannes Laitenberger, a European Commission spokesman. "Until the end of the inquiry and facts are established, presumption of innocence must prevail."

    Hans Peter Martin, an independent Austrian member of the European Parliament, who sits on the budgetary control committee and has been involved in investigating allegations of fraud at the European Parliament, said it was too early to tell whether the investigation was limited or could have a larger political impact.

    "It is hard to say whether this is a case of the Belgian police trying to show off or if this is more than just action based on a qualified rumor," he said in a telephone interview. "It still has not risen to the political level in terms of its effect."

    It is not the first time the EU has been at the center of corruption allegations. In 1999, the European Commission led by Jacques Santer, a former prime minister of Luxembourg, was forced to resign over allegations of fraud and mismanagement against some of his commissioners, accusations that were later confirmed by the report of an independent commission engaged by the European Parliament.

    The allegations centered on the former French prime minister Édith Cresson, who served as research and education commissioner from 1995 to 1999 and was accused of hiring a dentist, René Berthelot, who came from her hometown.

    Last year, outraged members of the European Parliament accused the city of Strasbourg of siphoning off up to €150 million, or $200 million, of taxpayers' money by secretly inflating the rent for the Parliament's building for more than a quarter of a century - an allegation the city denied.