Officers tracking EU crime and corruption for Europe’s anti-fraud office recovered almost 700 million euros ($880 million) last year from EU structural funds, customs and agricultural subsidies.
The Brussels-based OLAF anti-fraud office, run by the European Commission, said on presenting its 2011 report that its 463 inquiries last year led to the recovery of 691 million euros and cumulative jail sentences of 511 years.
Of the cases handled, 122 related to EU staff, 89 to agriculture, 67 to external aid and 64 to structural funds -- aid used to even out economic and social differences between the bloc's 27 member states.
The highest recoveries were in structural funds, with 524.7 million euros, followed by customs, with 113.7 million euros, and agriculture, 34 million euros.
“Thanks to our investigations, a considerable amount of money was recovered for EU taxpayers and a large number of criminals were brought to justice in national courts for crimes against the EU budget,” said OLAF director Giovanni Kessler.
Kessler said the massive 2011 haul was largely the result of “special circumstances” linked to the discovery by Italian authorities of 382 million euros in fraud related to structural funds.