Italian authorities and OLAF uncover major fraud involving EU funds in Sicily



21 June 2013

The Italian Guardia di Finanza and Procura della Republica of Palermo relied on evidence gathered in an OLAF investigation to uncover a major fraud involving EU funds in Sicily. As a result, 47 persons are under investigation, of which 17 in custody and assets worth €28 million have been seized this week.

Today, the Director-General of OLAF, Mr Giovanni Kessler, welcomed the judicial and financial recovery steps taken by the Italian authorities pursuant to Operations "Mala gestio" and "Sicilia grandi eventi". Mr Kessler stated that "this is a good example of OLAF and national authorities working closely together in the battle against abuse of EU and other public funds. Today, our cooperation has contributed to decisive action by the Italian authorities in this serious case."

One of the investigations of the Guardia di Finanza in this case concerned the abuse of a European Social Fund programme for training the unemployed, as provided for under the Regional Operational Programme for Sicily in the period 2000-2006.

The action of the Italian authorities was triggered by evidence collected by OLAF, following allegations of the widespread abuse of a project called "Consulenza, Orientamento e Apprendistato Co.or.Ap" implemented in Sicily. The project aimed to offer young people careers advice, guidance and apprenticeships. The final beneficiary, CIAPI (Centro Interaziendale Addestramento Professionale Integrato di Palermo), recruited staff and set up a number of offices across Sicily. The OLAF investigation revealed the existence of numerous irregular practices in the implementation and realisation of this project.

In its final Report of June 2011, OLAF issued Financial and Judicial Recommendations. It recommended the full recovery of the European Union part of the funding by the competent authority, the European Commission's Directorate General for Employment, and this process is on-going*. OLAF also referred its Report to the Procura della Republica of Palermo for possible judicial action and informed the Italian Court of Auditors and other competent Italian authorities.

On 19 June 2013, the Guardia di Finanza announced that pursuant to its follow-up investigation:

  • 47 persons are now under investigation for irregular tendering procedures, corruption, illegal financing of political parties, fiscal fraud, and fraud against the EU; 17 persons are in custody;
  • €28 million in assets, real estate and companies has been seized;
  • 50 checks have been carried out.

Background information:

*The total financial impact of the project investigated by OLAF was €15 million of which €10.6 million was from the European Social Fund. The financial correction launched by DG Employment of the European Commission pursuant to the OLAF recommendation is on-going.

The mission of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is threefold: it protects the financial interests of the European Union by investigating fraud, corruption and any other illegal activities; it detects and investigates serious matters relating to the discharge of professional duties by members and staff of the EU institutions and bodies that could result in disciplinary or criminal proceedings; and it supports the EU institutions, in particular the European Commission, in the development and implementation of anti-fraud legislation and policies.

For further details:
European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)
Phone: +32 2 295 73 36