Malta went from having not a single actionable report of fraud related to EU funds to becoming the country with the most reports per capita in Europe in just a year, according to the EU’s anti-graft agency.

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) annual report published yesterday revealed that Malta ended 2022 with 14 investigations at the EPPO’s office over projects worth a total of €123.5 million.

Three of those cases concern VAT fraud investigations of projects worth a total of €70.5 million.

Four cases include cross-border investigations, another four concern corruption, two are about procurement expenditure fraud and one concerns money laundering.

Possible fraud in agriculture, fisheries

Three cases of possible fraud emerged from agricultural and rural development programmes, one emerged from maritime and fisheries programmes and another one emerged from mobility and transport, energy and digitalisation programmes.

The EPPO was established in 2017 to investigate, prosecute and bring to judgment crimes against the EU’s financial interests, such as fraud, corruption or serious cross-border VAT fraud. It mainly investigates fraud in member states over EU funds.

Last October, Times of Malta revealed that the EPPO was investigating the €40 million Marsa flyover project for potential corruption. The massive infrastructure project, one of the biggest in recent years, was partly EU financed.

Data seized by the police from Yorgen Fenech’s mobile phone had revealed Fenech’s background role as a middleman in the project, against the promise of €2 million in “success fees”, half of which were planned to be funnelled to a secret offshore company linked to 17 Black.

But just a year before, in 2021, Malta was scolded for not reporting any cases.

In October 2021, EPPO chief prosecutor Laura Kovesi said this meant possible abuse going unchecked. While her office had received 2,200 reports from around the EU that year, just two came from Malta and neither of them had led to investigations as they were not within her office’s remit.  

By the end of that year, Malta had filed five reports, none of which led to investigations.

The EPPO annual report published yesterday shows that last year, it received 18 reports or complaints, 14 from local authorities, two from EU bodies and institutions, one from a private party, while another is an ex officio investigation.

PN MEP candidate Peter Agius also highlighted the stark fact yesterday, saying Malta by far exceeded the small and medium-sized member states in the number of reports and that ‘the €300 million Vitals fraud is the tip of the Labour iceberg’.

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