AuthorVille Itälä
ProfessionDirector-General of OLAF
The OLAF report 2019
It is with great pleasure that I present the latest edition of the annual report of the
European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). 2019 was my first full year in charge of OLAF
and it also marked the 20th anniversary of its creation, the culmination of two
decades of dedication and determination by OLAF staff to defend the interests of
European citizens. For 20 years, OLAF has put its unique expertise and experience
to the benefit of the EU, ensuring that taxpayers’ money is properly spent and
fighting fraud, corruption, smuggling and counterfeiting wherever we find it.
In our increasingly interconnected world fraudsters operate across borders, and
their fraud schemes have become increasingly sophisticated and hard to detect
for national authorities acting on their own. Our investigations and knowledge do
not stop at national borders, and this is a tangible asset. OLAF makes a difference
and the numbers speak for themselves: over the course of 2019, we concluded
181 investigations, we issued recommendations to the relevant national and EU
authorities for the recovery of €485 million to the EU budget and we opened 223
new investigations .
Over the years, we have learned to adapt quickly to uncover the ever-changing and
creative fraud patterns that seek to exploit the money made available to achieve
the priorities of the EU. As these priorities evolve over time, so do fraud patterns.
For example, one growing trend over the last few years has been an increase in
fraud involving EU funds for environmental or sustainability projects. You will find
more details of OLAF’s work in this area in Chapter 3. Sustainable development,
tackling climate change and protecting our environment are key priorities for
the European Union, and OLAF plays its part in supporting this objective. Fraud
affecting environment-related projects is doubly damaging: not only is precious
taxpayers’ money being stolen, but the environmental or sustainable benefits
that the investments are supposed to bring are also being lost. The European
Union has some of the most ambitious environmental targets and standards in
the world: making sure EU funding is invested correctly in helping to meet and
maintain them is a vital part of the battle against climate change.
2019 was a year of reflection on how OLAF could and should face the start of
its third decade. We have discussed throughout OLAF and with our numerous
stakeholders – European Commission services, the European Parliament, Member
State authorities and international organisations – the ways in which we can work
using a new, more agile and flexible model to prevent losses and damage to the EU
budget and to focus on new priorities such as health, safety, and the environment.
The new organisation chart that took effect on 16 June 2020 will make OLAF
fit to face new challenges and new opportunities, such as the beginning of the
operations of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, with which we are looking
forward to working particularly closely.
Cooperation with other institutions and organisations has always been at the
heart of what we do at OLAF, from coordinating with national authorities on
cross-border cases to developing Europe-wide approaches to tackling fraud.
Cooperation is vital for our work: we need fast and reliable access to the right
data in order to analyse it and to exploit it for operational purposes as well as
for strategic analysis. I am happy to see that our efforts to cultivate effective
contacts with our stakeholders have continued to pay off. I want OLAF to work
as a centre of knowledge against fraud. We will make greater use of the latest

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