Dossier exposes web of Eurocrat `fraud'

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The Independent Online
PRESSURE IS growing for a number of European Commissioners to be sacked after sensational allegations by a top commission official about a web of "irregularities" within the Brussels bureaucracy.

Details of the allegations are contained in a 34-page document written by the whistle-blowing official and obtained by The Independent.

In it Paul van Buitenen, an auditor in the Commission's financial control unit, paints a picture of murky dealings in the European Union executive, where aides and consultants hired by a number of commissioners were allegedly involved in defrauding the EU budget.

The whistle-blower, who has been suspended, attacks the Commission for its failure, either through incompetence or unwillingness, to investigate properly evidence of possible fraud. Urging the European Parliament to punish the Commission by blocking the annual budget, Mr van Buitenen explains in the document that he was threatened with disciplinary action when he raised his concerns internally. As "a loyal official and as a Christian" he says, he nevertheless felt duty bound to raise the alarm.

The allegations cover a range of schemes spanning humanitarian aid, tourism, research, education and training. Officials working for commissioners including the former French prime minister, Edith Cresson, who is the EU commissioner for education and training, are alleged to have been directly involved in serious irregularities. One official is alleged to have obtained "fictitious contracts" with an EU-funded consultancy project.

Mr van Buitenen's dossier has raised the stakes for the commission ahead of an unprecedented no-confidence vote in the European Parliament next week arising out of fraud cases highlighted by EU auditors. If the vote is lost the Commission could be forced to resign.

The Commission said yesterday that Mr van Buitenen had been suspended for passing on confidential internal documents relating to matters that were now under police investigation.

Members of the European Peoples Party, to which the Conservatives are allied, called yesterday for the resignations of the top ranks of the Commission. Socialist deputies rallied to the support of the Commission.