Fighting Fraud in the EU

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15 April 2011

On 22-25 March 2011 the Italian Scuola di Perfezionamento per le Forze di Polizia in Rome hosted CEPOL course “Fraud against EU, European Institutions and Euro Counterfeiting”.

The event, coordinated by Colonel Rosario Massino with support from Captain Gennaro Pino both from the Guardia di Finanza, attracted 21 participants from 15 Member States plus Switzerland. During his opening presentation General Gennaro Vecchione, Chief of the Department for the Repression of EU Frauds within the Department for Community Politics at the Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri, illustrated the serious phenomenon of frauds against European Institutions. Mr Vecchione highlighted that the negative effects caused by this kind of crime are due to the following reasons:

  • Appropriate standards of development and employment have not been reached within the European Union;
  • Financial loss suffered by Member States in case funds are not recovered;
  • The development of underground economies;
  • Negative impact on the confidence rapport between people and Community Institutions.

In consideration of the above, it was stressed that all Member States should promptly and effectively adopt the so called “principle of assimilation”, according to which the regulations as well as the organisational and operational measures adopted to protect the national resources must be implemented to safeguard EU financial interests.

Particular attention was given to frauds concerning excise taxes, and reference was made to European Council Directive 2008/118/EC dated 16 December 2008 concerning the general arrangements for excise duty.

On the topic of counterfeit cigarettes and cigarette trafficking, an interesting comparison emerged between the evaluations made by the investigative agencies represented by Mr Gianluca Dinoi and the presentation given by Mr Matteo Mattei, Brand Integrity manager at Philip Morris International.

Several presentations were given by participants: Mr Rastislav Kovac, expert from the Slovakian police, explained organisation and tasks of the Slovakian Anti-Corruption Bureau, their involvement in protection of financial interests of the EU in Slovakia and the fight against Euro counterfeiting. A further presentation was made by Mr Stephan Schweikert, liaison officer from the German Embassy in Rome. During these presentations the possibility of cooperating in investigations was taken into account. The topic of police cooperation was dealt with also by Mr Mario Bruno, Europol, in his presentation.

Moreover, Mr Alberto Potenza explained the functions, the tasks and the new perspectives of OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office, responsible for “protecting the financial interests of the European Union against fraud, corruption and any other illegal activities as well as the reputation of the European institutions”. regarding cooperation, taking into account the needs underlined by those who attended the previous edition of this course, a useful handbook was worked on, containing information on “who does what”, as well as on the different departments and bodies responsible for the fight against financial and economic crimes , including EUROFISC, introduced in 2010.

Participants were divided into two groups actively taking part in discussions concerning “Remarks and suggestions on international cooperation methods to safeguard EU financial interests and Euro counterfeiting”. The two working groups presented proposals on behalf of some experts attending the course.

The results of the different national points of view expressed during workshop 1 are the following:

  • Language is a major barrier and it is suggested that EU requests for cooperation should be in one language (Officer language skill and Translation matter);
  • There is a need for EU legislation to synchronize the legislation in relation to sharing of information throughout the EU (Harmonization of legislation);
  • There are large differences in the power of each body/agency/law enforcement authority in every single EU country;
  • Information in relation to companies is also an area where the legislation should be synchronized throughout the EU to allow evidence to be equally useful to investigators;
  • Efforts should be made to reduce the various channels utilized to allow more direct contact between investigators;
  • Police cooperation in tax related matters is slowed by lack of knowledge (EUROFISC was not known by everybody);
  • Generalized lack of access to tax database by police;
  • Complexity of operating procedures to collect information available to tax agencies;
  • The lack of instruments for administrative cooperation in some fields, for instance, structural funds;
  • Operational activities should be focused on detecting evasion and seizing assets as well as on the importance of collecting enough evidence to opportunely support judicial prosecution. This point is perceived as very important because criminal prosecution requires deeper and stronger evidence compared to administrative proceedings.

The results of the different national points of view expressed during the workshop 2 are:

  • Counterfeiting activities have a trans-national dimension. Law enforcement agencies have to be aware of this and the main objective is stronger cooperation. In order to achieve effective actions great importance is given to working with foreign counterparts. The general feeling of the participants is that we can use many instruments;
  • In the Eurozone, countries are experiencing a general increase of the criminal activity and a progressive improvement of the quality of false currency. In most cases, participants reported that the origin of the “Euro” is likely to be from third countries (in some countries the perception is that the specific crime is likely to further increases);
  • Other countries are dealing with “local” counterfeiting organisation, mainly committed to local currency and not skilled for dealing with the Euro. Organised crime is often involved in such criminal offenses;
  • The judiciary police powers are different among the participating countries, also because there is not a European legal framework with harmonised rules. The OLAF manual shows that most European countries have improved legislation. Furthermore, law enforcement agencies are allowed to exchange useful information;
  • Regarding future developments, the group assesses that operational activities should be mainly focus on “spotting” the origin of the money and not only the network dedicated to dispatching the notes. An increasing involvement of the Banking System and the developing of educational programs would strongly support police activities. The participants agree that trust, cooperation and a cooperative attitude are key points to improving the results of police activities and to tackle the phenomenon.

A study visit to the Naval–Aviation Operations Centre of the Guardia di Finanza Corps in Pratica di Mare was arranged. Course participants were welcomed by Brigadier General Possemato and attended a briefing given by Major Tommaso Santillo. Later they visited the aircrafts and relevant instrumentation.

On the final day of the course a presentation by Professor Ernesto Savona, the Director of the TRANSCRIME, Joint Research Centre on Transnational Crime, put forward very interesting points for reflection on the topic of “Organised and disorganised crime in frauds against the EU”.


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