A former European Commission official was on Friday sentenced by a criminal court in Brussels to 40 months' imprisonment and EUR 50,000 in fines for leaking confidential information to private companies in exchange for payments.
Two of these companies were each fined EUR 500,000. The successful prosecution in the case was the result of investigations carried out by both the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and judicial authorities in Belgium.
"This court ruling shows that the detection of fraud and corruption works well in the European Commission, and that adequate control mechanisms are in place," said OLAF Director-General Giovanni Kessler.
"OLAF investigates all serious cases of professional misconduct in the European institutions. Corruption cases are a relatively small but important part of our investigative mandate which goes beyond the EU institutions and includes the protection of EU funds across the globe. In the current economic climate, the fight against fraud and corruption is more important than ever," he added.
Between 1999 and 2003, an official at the Directorate-General for Agriculture & Rural Development (DG AGRI) sent confidential information on export refunds for cereals to companies specialized in the marketing of agricultural commodities in France and the Netherlands in exchange for payments and benefits in kind.
OLAF received allegations against this official in 2000 and soon after opened an investigation. OLAF forwarded the results of its investigation to the Belgian judicial authorities in May 2001. The investigation was kept secret until 2003 when the Belgian police searched Commission premises.
The official was immediately suspended from his duties in 2003. The Investigation and Disciplinary Office of the Commission started disciplinary proceedings as soon as compelling evidence resulting from the investigations was available. In September 2011, the official was dismissed and his civil service pension was reduced to the minimum possible amount for a period of 20 years.
The Commission has taken a number of precautionary measures to reduce the risk of similar crimes recurring. The concerned Commission service, DG AGRI, has separated tasks related to the administration of market measures such as export refunds from the responsibilities for market monitoring and management. Moreover, the Commission has introduced rules on mobility, in all services, which no longer allow the same person to occupy a sensitive post for more than 5 years.
An European Commission press release did not identify the official, but said it has a zero tolerance approach to corruption.
by RTT Staff Writer
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