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Sicily: EPPO seizes assets in investigation into €600 000 fraud involving agricultural funds

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At the request of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Palermo (Italy), the Italian Financial Police (Guardia di Finanza) have executed a seizure order on Wednesday, 1 March, against a farmer suspected of fraud involving agricultural funds, with estimated damages of €600 000.

Between 2012 and 2022, the suspect under investigation allegedly falsified statements and declared ownership and possession of land in the province of Messina that he did not own, in order to obtain agricultural funds from the European Union – namely through the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund (EAGF) and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).

According to the investigation, the suspect declared that he was in possession of numerous agricultural land parcels, located mostly in the Nebrodi national park, allegedly resorting to false lease contracts.

In some cases, as demonstrated by the evidence collected, the suspect claimed that he was in possession of parcels of land that were actually owned by the State Forestry of the Sicilian Region, or produced false lease contracts bearing the signature of owners deceased before the date of the contract – thus misleading the Italian agricultural payments agency AGEA (Agenzia per le erogazioni in agricoltura), and unduly receiving over € 600 000 in EU subsidies.

At the request of the European Delegated Prosecutors, the judge for preliminary investigations in Patti, Sicily, ordered the preventive seizure of assets for the sums unduly received, a precautionary measure that was executed by the Guardia di Finanza of Sant'Agata di Militello.

The precautionary measure was issued based on the evidence collected during the preliminary investigation. All persons concerned are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in the competent Italian courts of law.