EU’s anti-fraud watchdog OLAF is investigating the potential misuse of EU funds meant to provide food for refugees in Greece, a spokesperson for the agency said Tuesday. The news follows the detention on Saturday of the publisher, the editor in chief and one journalist from Greek newspaper Fileleftheros following a libel suit filed by Greek Defense Minister about an article alleging mishandling of EU funds aimed for reception centers for refugees and migrants.
The investigation into “alleged irregularities concerning the provision of EU-funded food for refugees in Greece” was launched following information submitted by the European Commission’s directorate-general for migration and home affairs in 2017, the spokesperson said.
“As the investigation is on-going, OLAF cannot issue any further comment at this stage,” the spokesperson said in an email, adding that “the fact that OLAF is examining the matter does not mean that any persons/entities involved have committed an irregularity/fraud.”
According to the Fileleftheros article, businesspeople close to far-right Defense Minister Panos Kammenos received some of the EU funding through contracts for matters like catering and plumbing. The newspaper said some businesses routinely overcharged for such contracts and often did not participate in competitive tenders.
Last year, NGO SolidarityNow submitted a petition to the European Parliament asking for a probe into the potential mismanagement of money intended to help refugees in the country. The organization pointed to poor living conditions for refugees and the fact that Greece has received substantial funds from Brussels to improve its asylum system, politico notes.