EU executive charged with ignoring fraud

By CHRIS WHITE, United Press International  |  Feb. 27, 2002 at 8:13 PM
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BRUSSELS, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- The chief spokesman for the European Commission has denied allegations expected to be published Thursday that he was involved in letting corrupt officials off too lightly.

"I have always done my job and my duty and I know what I have done," the spokesman Jonathan Faull said in Brussels Wednesday.

The German news magazine Der Stern is to publish a range of allegations against a number of European Commission officials Thursday. The Commission is the permanent executive of the European Union. Its members are appointed, not elected.

Faull himself is, with others, alleged to have let EU officials off too lightly after he investigated complaints against them. The allegations follow new suggestions of wrongdoing by a Dutch official, credited with providing the final bits of evidence in a scandal that caused a previous Commission to resign en mass.

Paul van Buitenen, a former budget investigator in the Commission, told Members of the European Parliament that he would go public unless the Commission responded to a 235-page dossier of allegations he says he submitted last August to Neil Kinnock, the commissioner in charge of personnel issues.

The Commission has now set up a fraud inquiry.

Documents provided to the European Parliament in 1999 forced the mass resignation of the then Commission after a special committee supported a number of fraud allegations first aired in the media.

When Kinnock was appointed to the new Commission he promised root and branch reform and a new EU anti-fraud office was set up. But Euro MPs now say the Commission has reverted to its old form.

British Conservative Timothy Kirkhope told United Press International Wednesday that he and other parliamentarians were "fed up with the inability of the European Commission to clean up its act. We want to see these latest allegations thoroughly investigated in an open and transparent way. "

Chris Heaton Harris, the MEP responsible for overseeing the Commission's anti-fraud office told UPI that the department had in the past been too soft on fraud allegations.

He added that the new office has dealt with 92 cases of alleged fraud where "there was evidence of criminal activity" but has pursued a prosecution in only two cases.

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