9 sept. 2011

Extracting fraud investigation documents from the OLAF, Tillack, 943/2007/PB

Fraud is an old problem of the EU. After the memorandum of whistleblower Paul van Buitenen dated 07/03/2002, and inaction of the OLAF (Office of Anti-Fraud Fight), journalist Hans-Martin Tillack published 2 articles on the subject in Stern. The OLAF decided to punish the journalist. He was accused of handing over € 8000 for certain investigation documents to an OLAF official. The OLAF requested the German prosecution to open an investigation, but Germans closed it (§ 3).

The complainant in case 943/2007/PB requested the OLAF to disclose the name of the OLAF official who signed the letter to the German prosecution, as well as the letter itself, to disclose the instructions to the relevant OLAF staff who negotiated starting the “swift action” against journalist Tillack with the Hamburg prosecution, as well as to disclose other documents on possible fraud within the European Commission.

The complainant filed the same request twice but the OLAF ignored it. Only after filing a complaint to the European Ombudsman the OLAF disclosed the name of its official who initiated the persecution of the journalist (§ 40), as well as provided a partial access to the documents.

The Ombudsman explained that the institution must give valid reasons enabling the applicant to decide whether the non-disclosure is grounded, and not limit itself with a simple statement that “it carried out a concrete and specific examination” (§ 58).

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