MEPs accused of attendance fraud

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The Independent Online

A senior member of the European parliament yesterday exposed what he claimed was widespread corruption at the Strasbourg assembly by revealing that nearly 200 of his fellow Euro MPs had faked attendance at parliamentary sessions in order to pick up generous daily allowances.

Hans-Peter Martin, an Austrian Social Democrat MEP, said he had seen scores of colleagues signing on for parliamentary sessions which they had missed, to claim a daily attendance allowance of €262 (£175).

"I have witnessed almost 200 MEPs hurrying to the central register to sign on for a session and then watched them drive to the nearest airport or station," Mr Martin told Germany's Bild Zeitung newspaper. "There are countless MEPs who go to Strasbourg and Brussels simply to pick up the €262. They have told me so themselves."

Mr Martin, aged 46, has been a Euro MP since 1999 but worked previously as an investigative reporter for Der Spiegel, publishing books on the pharmaceutical industry and a critique of globalisation. He claims to have kept a secret register of MEPs' faked attendances dating back to February 2001. He did not name individual parliamentarians, but said the behaviour of 57 of Germany's 102 MEPs was "problematic".

His revelations have infuriated MEPs whose movements were tracked by Mr Martin, who says he has documented about 7,200 abuses. He has been suspended from the socialist group in the parliament.

A spokesman for Pat Cox, president of the European Parliament, described the allegations as "unsubstantiated" and challenged the MEP to produce his evidence.

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