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European anti-fraud office looking into misuse of €5m EU funds

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is investigating a possible case of fraud involving EU grants received by companies linked to the former commissioner for the development of mountain communities, it emerged on Thursday.

Speaking after a session of the House watchdog committee, Akel MP Irini Charalambidou said the European agency is probing potential fraud involving €5 million of EU funds.

She said OLAF initiated the investigation based on the findings of the auditor-general here.

Charalambidou said the allegation is that former mountain communities commissioner Yiannakis Papadouris had business interests in the areas benefiting from EU grants – a matter pointing to conflict of interest.

In addition, three employees in companies owned or controlled by Papadouris were appointed by the presidential palace as advisors to the then-commissioner.

“The question is whose interests did they serve? The state’s interests, or the private business interests of their employer?” Charalambidou asked.

Papadouris resigned in 2019 after publicity concerning his activities.

Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides had raised the issue in parliament in November 2019, arguing that through his position as commissioner Papadouris stood to gain personally from the plan to develop the mountain communities because of his business activity in the region.

A former community leader of Kalopanayiotis, Papadouris owns many properties, mostly in the village, and has interests in numerous companies with operations in the area.

Papadouris was appointed commissioner in 2018 to oversee the interior minister’s strategic plan for the development of mountain regions, which seeks to halt and reverse the decades-long depopulation of the Troodos area by attracting more people to live in the region, promote tourism, balance the protection and exploitation of natural resources and improve infrastructure and transport.

Following his resignation, Papadouris sued the auditor-general.

 

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