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15 house searches in Romania for suspected fraud in Danube Delta projects

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Fifteen locations in Bucharest, Gorj, Giurgiu and the Danube Delta area (Romania), regions in Romania, were searched on 24 May 2022, at the request of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO). The searches were conducted as part of an ongoing investigation into alleged fraud concerning European funds of more than €3 million.

The EPPO suspects three people of forming an organised criminal group since early 2018 in order to defraud European funds for the development of the Danube Delta (Regional Operational Program 2014-2020).

To this end, the suspects developed a scheme with seven companies, controlled either directly or through intermediaries. The criminal group continues to this day, with each suspects having a well-established role and acting in a coordinated way.

Two of suspects made available to the group four companies that had wrongfully accessed European funds and used them in other areas of Romania, outside of the Danube Delta. The suspects set up a system through which, based on inaccurate documents, they created a false appearance regarding the place of implementation of the projects, the existence of financial resources related to their own contribution and the transparent organisation of the procurement procedures. The manipulation of the procurement procedures led to the setting of artificially increased prices.

The third suspect supplied equipment to the four companies controlled by the other two, at an overestimated price. Given that the equipment was purchased with European funds (approximately 70%), the interest of the group was to keep the purchase prices as high as possible, in order to obtain reimbursement of the largest possible amounts of European funds. Subsequently, the difference between the actual price and the purchase price declared to the managing authority remained at the disposal of the group.

In order to overestimate the value of the equipment, another three companies were used, all of them controlled by the third suspect: the equipment was imported into Romania through the first company and then sold to a second company, registered in Bulgaria. A first price increase took place then. Subsequently, the company based in Bulgaria sold the equipment to the companies controlled by the other two members of the group, at increased prices again. In order to create an apparent justification for this price increase, a third company was used, creating the appearance that services associated with the equipment sold to the beneficiaries of European funds were provided, and in whose accounts the amounts resulting from the price increase were transferred.

The total estimated damage is 14.437.000 lei (approx. €3 million).

On May 25, 2022, the three were informed of the accusation. A bail was set for each, for a total of €1,7 million.

The searches were carried out with the support of police officers from the EPPO Support Structure in Romania, police officers from the Economic Crime Investigation Directorate of the General Inspectorate of the Romanian Police (Directia de Investigare a Criminalității Economice din cadrul IGPR), Gorj County Police Inspectorate – Economic Crime Investigation Service (IPJ Gorj – Serviciul de Investigare a Criminalitatii Economice) and  officers from the Romanian Gendarmerie (Brigada Speciala de Interventie a Jandarmeriei Romane).