The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has reported that over €1 billion of EU funds were misused for fraudulent purposes in 2023. This finding was part of OLAF's

latest annual report, published on Tuesday.

OLAF's primary role is to investigate potential cases of fraud and corruption involving EU budget money. Once investigations are complete, OLAF forwards its findings to the relevant European and national authorities for action.

In 2023, OLAF recommended the recovery of €1.04 billion in misused funds. Additionally, investigators identified a further €209 million at risk of fraud but not yet spent.

During the year, OLAF initiated 190 new cases and closed 265 investigations. These concluded investigations led to 309 recommendations to judicial authorities, aiming to recover fraudulently spent EU funds. Notably, 44 of these cases involved illegal activities by staff within EU institutions.

"These investigations should ensure that everyone adheres to the highest standards of conduct, as EU citizens rightly expect, and help protect the reputation of the EU as a whole," the report stated.

Rise in Digital and Customs-Related Fraud

OLAF's report highlighted a significant number of fraud attempts related to customs. In 2023, the agency successfully intercepted counterfeit medicines, half a million fake and/or dangerous toys, 6 million litres of illegal alcoholic beverages, and thousands of tonnes of illegal waste.

The trend of digital fraud and irregularities continued to grow, affecting areas such as regional development aid, agriculture, and research and development.

Investigations took place across all 27 EU member states, including Belgium. According to Belgian news outlet L'Echo, Belgium paid over €251 million to the European Commission to compensate for the undervaluation of textiles and footwear originating from China. Photo by Lionel Allorge, Wikimedia commons.