Author: Nicola Sharp 9 June 2021
The European Union’s public prosecution office has started operating.
After appointing more than 100 prosecutors from 22 countries, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) has begun investigating and prosecuting crimes relating to the EU budget, including fraud, money laundering, corruption and tax offences.
Although it began operating this month, the EPPO was first proposed eight years ago, with the regulation to establish the body being adopted four years later. A total of 22 of the 27 EU member states have signed up to the EPPO. Denmark, Hungary, Ireland, Poland and Sweden have opted out.
The EPPO was created eight months ago but has only now been able to start investigating, due to staffing and resourcing issues. It currently has approximately 3,000 potential cases to investigate – a figure which is expected to rise now that it is functioning. It will work closely with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), which investigates EU budget fraud but has no prosecutorial power.
The EPPO consists of prosecutors from each participating EU state. It aims to help the EU recover the €50 billion that it is estimated to lose to financial crime each year. EPPO cases will be handled by 140 European delegated prosecutors based in member states; with each country having a number of prosecutors in proportion to its size.
The EPPO has made it clear that it intends to tackle large-scale corruption and fraud. If it works well in conjunction with 22 of the 27 member states it has the potential to have a real impact on serious organised crime and cross-border legal issues.
Providing such a unified approach may work well when it comes to targeting crime. While it faces many challenges, such an approach is understandable. It remains to be seen how successful it is in practice.
Nicola is known for her fraud, civil recovery, arbitration and business crime expertise, her experience of leading the largest financial disputes and multinational investigations and her skills in devising preventative measures and conducting internal investigations for corporates.