Laura Codruța Kovesi

Cyprus stands out as a robust member of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) with ten active investigations in Cyprus and assistance in 58 cases involving other participating member states, attorney-general George Savvides said on Wednesday.

At a recent seminar held at the University of Cyprus in the presence of European chief prosecutor Laura Codruța Kovesi, Savvides underscored Cyprus’ pivotal role in the operations of the European Union’s independent public prosecution office.

This year there are ten active investigations in Cyprus and a total of 58 cases where the EPPO in Cyprus is assisting other participating member states, noting a steady increase in cases, Savvides said, emphasising that Cyprus is proving to be a strong partner for all the participating member states.

According to police data, nine cases involve the misappropriation of EU funds which are currently being investigated by the Economic Crime Sub-Directorate. Of them, five involve a research project, one VAT fraud case, one case of ethics violation in the European Parliament and two cases of fraud related to public procurement.

Savvides highlighted the excellent cooperation with the EPPO, facilitated through European prosecutor Anni Pantazi and European delegated prosecutor Andri Constantinou, acting on behalf of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office in investigating and prosecuting criminal offences against the EU’s financial interests.

He added that the Legal Service, in collaboration with the European delegated prosecutor and the justice ministry, prepared and submitted bills to the House of Representatives for better implementation of the EPPO regulation and improved harmonisation of the PIF directive. Recently, two bills were passed into law.

“Our shared vision is a more transparent, accountable, and resilient European Union, which we hope to achieve through our dedication and commitment to justice,” he added.

For her part, the European chief prosecutor stated that according to the latest annual report of the office, two and a half years after its activities began, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office had more than 1,900 active investigations with an estimated total damage of over €19 billion, of which more than 200 relate to the first project funded under the Next Generation EU, with estimated damage exceeding €1.8 billion.

“These numbers may seem shocking, but this is only the beginning,” she said.

The European chief prosecutor also emphasised the close ties between organised crime and VAT fraud stressing that “more money in the hands of criminals means more criminal economy, more crime, violence, and human misery”.

“Over the past decades, organised crime has exceeded all acceptable measures, and we have a collective responsibility for this. For years, we have ignored what the true level of economic fraud and corruption means for our own security,” she stressed.

Financial crimes are deeply connected to internal security issues, Kovesi explained. Current efforts to tackle organised crime in the EU have been insufficient, with authorities seizing less than 2 per cent of their annual revenues.

“This means that we need to redefine our strategy and cooperate,” she stressed.

EPPO, which begun operations in June 2021, is responsible for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to judgement crimes against the financial interests of the EU. Cyprus was one of the first members to express its desire to participate and collaborate in its creation while it remains the only common law country participating. In total, 23 out of the 27 EU member states currently participate, according to the official EPPO website.