EU public prosecutor investigating nine fraud cases in Portugal, €158.2M total estimated damage

  • Lusa
  • 24 March 2022

The EU's independent body for investigating fraud and corruption has nine investigations open in Portugal with total estimated damages of €158.2 million.

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office, the EU’s independent body for investigating fraud and corruption, has nine investigations open in Portugal with total estimated damages of €158.2 million, the structure announced on Thursday.

In its first annual report, released today, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office shares for the first time statistics on its operation, which reveal investigations involving €5.4 billion in damages to the European Union (EU) budget in its first seven months of activity.

In Portugal, a total of nine investigations were open until the date of completion of the report, December 31 2021, relating to crimes such as fraud, VAT tax evasion and money laundering, according to the document.

According to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office estimate, the total estimated damage from these crimes in Portugal amounts to €158.2 million, which is €143.9 million in terms of estimated losses from VAT fraud investigations.

Seizures in Portugal have a value of €3.3 million, also according to the document.

To investigate these cases in the country – eight of which are old and only one is new – the European Public Prosecutor’s Office received complaints or reports from national authorities (36), European institutions, bodies and agencies (six) and private individuals (four).

The office, an independent EU body for fraud and corruption investigations, started operating on June 1 2021.

It operates as an independent and highly specialised prosecution office and its role is to investigate, prosecute and prepare the prosecution of those who commit crimes that damage the EU budget, including fraud in obtaining grants and other financial support or related to VAT, corruption and money laundering.

The office focuses on complex, cross-border investigations into sophisticated economic and financial crime, in particular where serious organised crime is involved, investigating fraud involving EU funds of more than €10,000 and cross-border VAT fraud with damages of more than €10 million.

In Portugal, the choice of prosecutor was shrouded in controversy as Portuguese magistrate José Guerra was nominated by the government after being selected in first place by the High Council of Public Prosecutors, but after a European committee of experts considered Ana Carla Almeida as the best candidate for the post.

In the report released today, it is also indicated that 2,832 reports were processed in these first seven months of operational activity by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, 576 investigations were started and 515 investigations were active in December 2021, with a total of €5.4 billion of estimated damages.

When it comes to seizures, they amounted to €147.3 million, three times the European Public Prosecutor’s Office’s actual budget for 2021.

All EU member states are part of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office except five, Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, Poland and Sweden, with a total of 95 European prosecutors working in 35 offices in the 22 participating countries. In Portugal, there are offices in Lisbon and Porto.