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Italy: EPPO seizes €570 000 in investigation into fraud involving dairy products for schools

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(Luxembourg, 05 July 2023) – On behalf of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Rome (Italy), the Italian Financial Police (Guardia di Finanza) seized €570 000, in an investigation into fraud involving the supply of dairy products to primary schools.   

On the radar of the EPPO is a company based in Altamura (Apulia), acting on behalf of a temporary association of companies that won a procurement procedure to supply dairy products to schools – a EU scheme to help children develop healthy eating habits, financed by the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF). For that purpose, the company signed a contract with the Italian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policy (MIPAAF). 

On 26 June 2019, the legal representative of the company submitted to the Italian agricultural payments agency AGEA (Agenzia per le erogazioni in agricoltura) and MIPAAF a payment request of €570 000, for the expenses incurred for the provision and distribution of food.

However, following controls by AGEA, several elements brought into question the reliability of the documents submitted by the company. According to the investigation, carried out by Guardia di Finanza - Altamura on behaf of the EPPO, the company submitted fraudulent bank statements and falsified account books to certify that it had paid the suppliers. While the food was supplied, the evidence shows that the company did not actually pay any of the invoices from its suppliers, and was therefore not entitled to reimbursement.

In order to recover the damage to the EU budget, the pre-trial Judge of the Court of Bari issued a freezing order of €570 000, which was executed in full, by freezing the bank account of the company.

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) is the 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.