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Start date of EPPO operations: European Chief Prosecutor proposes 1 June 2021 to the European Commission

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European Chief Prosecutor Laura K?vesi has Wednesday sent a letter to European Commissioners for Justice, Didier Reynders, and for Budget and Administration, Johannes Hahn, proposing 1 June 2021 as the date when the EPPO will start its investigative and prosecutorial tasks.

 

Since the appointment of the College of the EPPO, key decisions for the establishment of the EPPO have been adopted, staff for the central office in Luxembourg have been recruited, a fully operational case management system is ready for use, working arrangements with relevant partners have been adopted or are in their finalisation phases, etc.

 

From the nominations made so far by the participating Member States, the College of the EPPO has already appointed European Delegated Prosecutors in 10 participating Member States. Based on the information currently available, the selection procedures in the remaining Member States are ongoing.

 

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) is the new independent public prosecution office of the European Union. It is responsible for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to judgment crimes against the financial interests of the EU. These include several types of fraud, VAT fraud with damages above 10 million euro, money laundering, corruption, etc.

 

The EPPO undertakes investigations, carries out acts of prosecution and exercises the functions of prosecutor in the competent courts of the participating Member States, until the case has been finally disposed of. Up until now, only national authorities could investigate and prosecute these crimes, but their powers stopped at the borders of their country. Organisations like Eurojust, OLAF and Europol do not have the necessary powers to carry out such criminal investigations and prosecutions.

 

It is very difficult to assess the initial workload of our operational team, but a survey of all participating EU Member States shows that the EPPO will start with at least 3,000 cases. This number is likely to increase once the operational phase has started.

The mandate of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office is defined in a Council Regulation that entered into force on 31 October 2017.

 

Which crimes are involved?

 

As of 6 July 2019, participating Member States need to have the PIF Directive’ adopted into their national legislations. This directive of the Council and the Parliament covers the fight against fraud to the European Unions financial interests by means of criminal law, and increases the level of protection of the EU budget by harmonising the definitions, sanctions and limitation periods of criminal offences affecting the EU’s financial interests.

 

It also defines which crimes are within the mandate of the EPPO:

  • Cross-border VAT fraud involving total damages of at least EUR 10,000,000

  • Other types of fraud affecting the EU’s financial interests

  • Corruption that damages, or is likely to damage, the EU’s financial interests

  • Misappropriation of EU funds or assets by a public official

  • Money laundering and organised crime, as well as other offences inextricably linked to one of the previous categories

 

For example: If a civil servant takes a bribe in relation to an EU-funded project and conceals it by buying a house, the EPPO can investigate both the passive corruption and the subsequent money laundering.

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