Romania’s Laura Codruta Kovesi who heads the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office says she already has 300 cases, less than a month after the agency was launched.
She says she wants to hire 50 more investigators to cope with the workload, she said in an interview.
She said prosecutors will focus on possible fraud in the 750-billion euro EU Recovery Plan.
The European Commission will issue the jointly-backed debt that will fund payments from the pandemic-relief package that has been earmarked to help member states recover from the pandemic.
“Our expectation is that the number of cases will increase—because more money, less rules and less transparency means a higher risk of criminality” , she told Risk & Compliance Journal of the Wall Street Journal in an interview published on June 18.
“Our expectation is to have more cases, especially in the healthcare system, in public procurement, infrastructure, and also in agriculture”, she told the publication.
“The advantage of the EPPO is that we can investigate better, especially the cross-border crimes.
Most EU members have joined the office, bar Hungary and Poland who say they will not participate. Sweden will join next year. Ireland and Denmark have opt-out benefits. The agency will investigate fraud, corruption and money laundering involving the EU budget.
No clean country
Ms Kovesi said that in her view “there is no clean country. In those member-states where the number of cases wasn’t so high, this doesn’t mean that they are clean”.
“When we speak about the investigations related to fraud with EU funds, these offenses suffer sometimes from a lack of coordination, and were not always the first priority of the national authorities,” she said.
“This will be changed with EPPO because (it) is in a unique position to have a significant impact on the fight against this type of fraud.”
She said there were “huge discrepancies” between member-states.
“We have member-states that investigated five or six cases in a year. Some other member-states, in one year, they investigated hundreds of cases”.
She said the new agency needed to be able to hire more people to do their job properly.
“We still do not have enough resources. We need more staff, at least a minimum of 50 more people here in Luxembourg in order to be able to have more case analysts and financial investigators and to deal with all the cases”
“I hope that for the next year, we will get more resources. We will fight for this”.
She said the office had received money but not the green light to hire more people.
“ So what should I do, buy flowers for the office? No, we should use the money in a wise way”.