The European Union is setting up a pan-European prosecutors office which will have the power to charge people for financial crimes committed against the Union.
The European Public Prosecutor’s office is likely to be fully operational later next year and will be based in Luxembourg. Satellite offices will also be opened in individual member states.
Carl Dolan, director of Transparency International EU, welcomed the news, saying: “Crimes involving EU funds are not a priority for national authorities, and that’s a problem.
“There is a general perception that this is not anybody’s money, it comes from Brussels and therefore it doesn’t really matter what they do with the money.”
An expert in European criminal law agreed; “National public prosecutors may not be very committed to prosecuting crimes of EU funds; they may not have enough resources, not enough expertise to do it…Studies report that national prosecutors tend to have crimes against the EU budget at the bottom of the pile,” said Fabio Giuffrida, a European criminal law researcher at Queen Mary University of London and the University of Luxembourg.
Financial abuse relating to the EU budget are believed to cost at least $3.4 billion a year, not including the countless billions more laundered via European banks and institutions.
The think tank RAND Europe estimates that financial crime costs Europe between $205 billion to $1.1 trillion a year.
Six EU countries have chosen not to participate in the prosecutor’s office, meaning they will not be able to investigate or litigate in Hungary, Poland, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.