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Italy: EPPO seizes €700 000 in investigation into fraud involving funds for organic farming

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The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Palermo (Italy) has seized over €700 000 in assets against seven suspects and their companies, in an investigation into fraud involving national and EU agricultural funding aimed at supporting the conversion to organic farming.

The freezing order, issued by the Judge for Preliminary Investigations at the Court of Catanzaro (Calabria), was executed today, 5 May 2023, by the Catanzaro Provincial Command of the Guardia di Finanza (Italian Financial Police).

The crimes under investigation are aggravated fraud for obtaining public funds, and false statements in a public deed. The suspects are believed to have presented false certifications concerning the requirements to be awarded the non-repayable funds – thus misleading the paying agency, which granted the sums now subject to the freezing order. In particular, the suspects are understood to have falsely certified that they did not have prior convictions or pending tax debts, that they met the requirements to be considered a young agricultural entrepreneur and that the quality of their activities was recognised by the competent health department.

The total amount obtained by the suspects was €713 377.61, granted by the Calabrian Region under the  partly EU-funded Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2014/2020. In order to recover the damages to the national and EU budgets, the Italian Financial Police, on behalf of the EPPO, has seized the bank accounts and real estate of the suspects under investigation.