The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) is the new 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. These include several types of fraud, VAT fraud with damages above 10 million euro, money laundering, corruption, etc.
The EPPO undertakes investigations, carries out acts of prosecution and exercises the functions of prosecutor in the competent courts of the participating Member States, until the case has been finally disposed of. Up until now, only national authorities could investigate and prosecute these crimes, but their powers stopped at the borders of their country. Organisations like Eurojust, OLAF and Europol do not have the necessary powers to carry out such criminal investigations and prosecutions.
Since starting its operations on 1 June 2021, EPPO has registered more than 2500 crime reports from participating EU Member States and private parties. More than 500 investigations have been opened, with some crime reports still under evaluation. Members of the public are able to report crime to EPPO using the special web form.
What are the financial interests of the EU?
All revenues, expenditures and assets covered by, acquired through, or due to the European Union budget and the budgets of the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies established under the Treaties, and budgets managed and monitored by them.
Which crimes are involved?
As of 6 July 2019, participating Member States need to have the ‘PIF Directive’ adopted into their national legislations. This directive of the Council and the Parliament covers the fight against fraud to the European Union’s financial interests by means of criminal law, and increases the level of protection of the EU budget by harmonising the definitions, sanctions and limitation periods of criminal offences affecting the EU’s financial interests.
It also defines which crimes are within the mandate of the EPPO:
- Cross-border VAT fraud involving total damages of at least EUR 10,000,000
- Other types of fraud affecting the EU’s financial interests
- Corruption that damages, or is likely to damage, the EU’s financial interests
- Misappropriation of EU funds or assets by a public official
- Money laundering and organised crime, as well as other offences inextricably linked to one of the previous categories
For example: If a civil servant takes a bribe in relation to an EU-funded project and conceals it by buying a house, the EPPO can investigate both the passive corruption and the subsequent money laundering.
The European Public Prosecutor’s office works hand-in-hand with other EU bodies and institutions in its activities. Detailed working arrangements have been established with, among others: OLAF, Eurojust, Europol, European Court of Auditors, European Commission.