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Hungary in Hot Water over OLAF Fraud Statistics

Ábrahám Vass 2019.09.03.

Hungary lags behind in many aspects of the European Anti-Fraud Office’s (OLAF) recently published fraud statistics. Among other things, Hungary is due to recover the highest ratio of EU funds, while it also leads in the highest number of irregularities found last year.

OLAF has concluded nine cases in 2018 in Hungary, more than anywhere else (including for example Romania and Greece). It has revealed irregularities in seven of them in which data is also the highest in comparison to other countries.

Last year, OLAF concluded 86 cases in total, out of which 48 recommendations have been made. Investigations are still ongoing in 414 cases. While OLAF obviously doesn’t disclose specific information about the exact fields of investigation, Index’s Eurologus blog notes that most inspections generally affect structural and investment funds – those with which larger projects in Hungary are mostly financed.

What is more, due to the high number of irregularities between 2014 and 2018, Hungary is recommended to recover the highest ratio of EU funds (3.84%) of this period. While the EU average is 0,45%, only Slovakia (2,84%) nears Hungary; all the rest of the countries are below 0,5%.

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In addition, between 2012 and 2018, 20 cases have been pending (meaning that while recommendations have been made, no action has been taken) by the Hungarian Judicial Auhorities; only Italy (21), Romania (20) and the UK (19) nears Hungary in this matter.

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One of OLAF’s investigation directors Ernesto Bianchi claimed that he “doesn’t see a systematic problem in the statistics related to Hungary.”

In a message posted to his Facebook channel, independent MP Ákos Hadházy argued that “although these numbers are indeed interesting, these few cases can hardly show how systematic theft is ongoing in Hungary.” He warns that OLAF has limited resources in investigating and urges Hungarians to stand by the country’s joining the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO).

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According to Momentum MEP Katalin Cseh, Hungary-bound EU funds are indeed at risk because of the rule of law and corruption issues. She added that EU funds should be spent in a different way, and besides taking a stance by the EPPO, she insists that OLAF’s investigations must have consequences.

The Fidesz-led government has yet to comment on the report.