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Alleged irregularities in an OLAF investigation

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  • Case: 2515/2011/CK
    Opened on 31 Jan 2012 - Decision on 27 Sep 2013
  • Institution(s) concerned: European Anti-Fraud Office
  • Field(s) of law: General, financial and institutional matters
  • Types of maladministration alleged – (i) breach of, or (ii) breach of duties relating to: Reasonable time-limit for taking decisions [Article 17 ECGAB]
  • Subject matter(s): Institutional and policy matters
investigate lens
Author: Roberto Rizzo
Copyright: Stocklib © Roberto Rizzo

Summary of the decision on complaint 2515/2011/(VIK)CK against the European Antifraud Office ('OLAF')

In early 2011, two journalists from the United Kingdom, pretending to be lobbyists, recorded several conversations with the complainant, a Romanian Member of the European Parliament ('MEP'), and three other MEPs. The journalists claimed that the MEPs approached by them had accepted to be paid in cash for intervening in the legislative process. Their article "Euro MPs exposed in ‘cash-for-laws’ scandal" was published on 20 March 2011.

Following the publication of this article, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) opened administrative investigations concerning the complainant and the three other MEPs.

In December 2011, the complainant turned to the Ombudsman, alleging that OLAF failed to conclude its investigation within a reasonable time and discriminated against him because it concluded its investigation concerning another MEP in a shorter period of time. In its opinion, OLAF argued that it had to assess the individual position of the MEPs involved, and treat each investigation separately. It also noted that its investigation concerning the complainant, which was closed in November 2011, lasted less than eight months, and provided detailed information regarding the different procedural steps it had taken before it closed the case. In his observations, the complainant raised further allegations and claims related to the outcome of OLAF's investigation.

The Ombudsman considered that while the four MEPs involved were all under investigation for alleged misconduct based on similar allegations, the facts of each investigation were not identical and each individual case had to be assessed separately. The Ombudsman therefore considered that the mere fact that the length of the individual investigations carried out by OLAF varied did not as such prove that there was discrimination. He also noted that there were no other elements that would suggest that OLAF treated the complainant less favourably than the three other MEPs concerned. The Ombudsman also considered that the overall duration of the procedure remained within reasonable time limits. He noted, however, that there had been a delay of two months before the complainant was informed of the closure of the investigation. With an eye to helping OLAF improve its administration in the future, he made a further remark in this regard. Finally, the Ombudsman considered that there was no need for further inquiries into the complainant's additional allegations and claims.