The European Union needs to alter its definition of organised crime, if it to successfully overcome the problem of misuse of EU funds through illegal activity, one expert has told the European Parliament.
Presenting the findings of a European Parliament study entitled How Does Organised Crime Misuse EU Funds? on 24 September, Wim Wensink, from Price Waterhouse Coopers, told the parliament’s special committee on organised crime that currently there exists no definite definition of organised crime, and that various definitions appear at different points in time.
“No single definition exists by the EU institutions and agencies”, he said, despite a 2008 mandate that the Union can target organised crime and fraud if it causes serious damage to the financial foundation of the EU. “International definitions of organised crime are not good. It would be better if the European union had a definition of serious crime”.
At the moment, however, said Wensink, despite evidence of fraud undermining the dispersal of EU funds, “not much reliable information exists” from official outlets and agencies, such as OLAF, the EU’s anti-fraud body, the Court of Auditors or Eurostat. According to Wensink, the study, therefore, had to “fall back on a lot of open source material”, that was not available through the EU agencies and institutions.
He said that, according to the study, defrauding EU funds comes mainly through bribery and corruption, overstating the value of a project and money alundering. He said that the EU needs to strengthening its oversight abilities and enhance the Court of Auditors as a first step to tackling such activities.
While he said that “fraud and organised crime do overlap, fraud is more than just organised criminality”.
He said that EU agencies and institutions need uniform definitions of fraud, organised crime and serious crime., and a special effort must be made to link this kind of crime to the misuse of European funds, which is undermining the EU’s effectiveness in some member states.
He said that the EU should establish a permanent fraud prevention project through its institutions and agencies, and maybe member states also, and that “all means available” should be utilised to guarantee transparency and accountability in the funding process.