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Romania: Company specialised in painting icons probed over fraud allegations

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(Luxembourg, 11 July 2023) – The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Iași (Romania) is carrying out searches today in Buzău County, as part of an investigation into a company specialised in painting icons, suspected of subsidy fraud and money laundering.

The company, which paints icons for restaurants and the hospitality sector, obtained EU funding for a project to purchase equipment to support artistic creation, including industrial printers and sculpting and engraving machines.

However, according to the evidence, the company bought the machinery from China for a fraction of its price, via another company created specifically for this purpose and controlled by two of the managers of the beneficiary of the EU funds. This second company’s sole trading activities are the import and resale of goods from China. It is believed that this company sold the equipment to the beneficiary of the funds for ten times its original price.

According to the investigation, to create the appearance of real commercial transactions, bank transfers to the accounts of the interposed company were ordered. Finally, the suspects are believed to have made withdrawals from ATM machines from those accounts – thus obtaining at least €80 000 euros in illicit profits.

To hide the fraudulent transactions, the company is believed to have presented false invoices and forged documents to the managing authority, Romania’s Agency for Financing Rural Investments (AFIR).

The searches were carried out by judicial police officers of the Organised Crime Service (Serviciul de Combatere a Criminalității Organizate) of Buzău, under the coordination of the EPPO. Several suspects were questioned.

In order to recover the damage to the EU budget and any judicial expenses, the Police seized four properties (two apartments and two land lots), worth approximately €200 000.

All persons concerned are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in the competent Romanian courts of law.

The 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.