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New EU fraud body says disputed data on Cyprus came from member states

Attorney-General George Savvides

After saying 10 per cent of the estimated 3,000 fraud investigations it would be dealing with each year would involve Cyprus, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) said its figures had been drawn from data received from other member states.

The figures were reported on Wednesday, prompting the reaction of attorney-general Giorgos Savvides who said in a written statement that the figures did not “appear to be consistent with the information we have in our possession”.

He referred to an investigation carried out by the legal service with the police in 2019, which was sent to European advocate-general Laura Kövesi, covering the period from 2016 to 2019. This said that the number of criminal acts which were examined by Cypriot authorities that would fall into the category of offences investigated by the EPPO never exceeded four cases per year.

In response to a Cyprus Mail email seeking comment, EPPO spokesperson Tine Hollevoet, said the office had asked several EU member states how many mutual legal assistance requests they had sent to Cyprus in the last three years, for cases that fall under the mandate of the EPPO — financial crimes affecting the EU budget.

“Since the EPPO is not operational yet, we do not have our own data yet, hence our question to the member states. We received data from several countries: in some it was 3 per cent, in other 8 per cent or 14 per cent, so based on what we received we assume that an average of up to 10 per cent of all EPPO cases will have a Cypriot component,” she said.

Hollevoet said this was the reason why the EPPO wanted to have full-time European Delegated Prosecutors for EPPO in Cyprus, on the one side to guarantee independence of the prosecutors, “but also because we know there will be enough work for them to work full-time for EPPO.”

Kövesi has noted the slowness at which member states were getting around to appointing prosecutors who will be tasked with carrying out the investigations in their home countries. The EPPO is due to become fully operational on March 1.

The plan is to have at least 140 such prosecutors. But as of January 6, this year, only nine are up and running.

Only Estonia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Slovakia out of the 22 participating member states have so far selected their delegated prosecutors, reports said.

 

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