Cyprus Mail

Authorities say have no information on misuse of €400,000 (updated)

Labour Minister Kyriakos Koushos

Cypriot authorities said on Tuesday they had no information from the European anti-fraud office, Olaf, regarding an investigation that revealed more than €400,000 provided by the Commission’s Research Executive Agency (REA) to a consortium of SMEs in France, Romania, Spain and Ireland with the purpose of improving forest-fire detection were used for a casino/hotel project in Cyprus.

“From the information were have so far it appears no authority in the Republic has had any briefing on the issue,” government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos said.

“No Cypriot companies are involved in the particular case.”

The spokesman said the funds allocated by the EU did not concern the Republic.

The spokesman suggested Olaf could be referring to the areas that are not controlled by the government.

Pending official information from the EU, the spokesman urged parties to refrain from further comments on the matter.

Earlier Tuesday, both the Attorney-general Costas Clerides and the head of the anti-money laundering unit, Mokas, Eva Papakypriacou said they had no involvement in the case so far.

Papakyriacou said Olaf carried out administrative and not criminal investigations but if there was a possibility of a criminal offence, the organisation would apply to the attorney-general for further action.

Clerides said so far Cypriot authorities have not received such a request from Olaf.

Last week, Olaf said more than €400,000 provided by the Commission’s REA to a consortium of SMEs were misappropriated and used for a casino/hotel project in Cyprus. Olaf hasn’t revealed the identity of the firms.

As the project progressed, REA had concerns that some claims for personnel costs submitted by the consortium might be false and reported these suspicions to Olaf.

Olaf, following coordination with the relevant national authorities, on-the-spot checks and digital forensic operations, concluded that the initial funding application and the subsequent progress reports by SMEs were based on lies and justified by false documents, and that the consortium of SMEs never had the operational capacity to carry out the project.

The in-depth investigation showed that the consortium members had simply siphoned off the vast majority of the EU funding foreseen for this environmental research project.

Most of the stolen EU money was diverted as far away from its intended purpose as could be imagined – being pumped into a casino/hotel project in Cyprus.

The investigation, that concluded in November 2019, recommended to REA to recover €410,000 from the consortium and asked the competent national judicial authorities to initiate judicial proceedings against the individuals involved.

The Cyprus Gaming and Casino Supervision Committee said it is investigating the Olaf funds issue and has contacted the European authority.

“The fraud does not have anything to do with the Integrated Casino Resorts Cyprus, which is the company the licence was given to for the creation and running of a casino in the Republic of Cyprus,” the committee said.

The announcement added there is no allegation that any criminal activity was committed in the Republic, the European authority told the committee.

However, Olaf could not provide any more information to the committee, citing it would be a violation of personal data.

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