Cypriot authorities unaware of EU rip-off

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Nicosia said on Tuesday that no Cypriot authority received any information from the European anti-fraud office OLAF, regarding an investigation into a €400,000 scam of EU money allegedly diverted into a casino/hotel project in Cyprus.

OLAF reported that €400,000 provided by the Commission’s Research Executive Agency (REA) to a consortium of five SMEs in France, Romania, Spain and Ireland with the purpose of improving forest-fire detection, ended up going to the project in Cyprus.

“From the information, we have so far it appears no authority in the Republic has had any briefing on the issue,” government spokesman Kyriacos Koushos said.

He added that the funds allocated by the EU did not concern the Republic and that “no Cypriot company is involved in this case.”

Koushos suggested that OLAF could be referring to a casino project which is being built in areas that are not controlled by the government, that is the Turkish occupied north of the island.

Pending official information from the EU, the spokesman urged parties to refrain from further comments on the matter, which could damage the country.

In comments quoted by Cyprus media, Attorney General Costas Clerides said so far Cypriot authorities have not received a request from OLAF to carry out a criminal investigation.

OLAF reported last week that an administrative investigation – completed in November 2019 – showed that more than €400,000 provided by the Commission’s REA to a consortium of SMEs were misappropriated and used for a casino/hotel project in Cyprus.

The agency has yet to disclose the names of the firms involved.

OLAF has recommended to REA to recover €410,000 from the consortium while asking competent national judicial authorities to initiate judicial proceedings against individuals involved.

OLAF on-the-spot checks and digital forensic operations concluded that the initial funding application and subsequent progress reports by SMEs were based on lies and justified by false documents, and the consortium never had the operational capacity to carry out the environmental project.