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Prodi unaware of Eurostat scandal

27/06/2003 15:54
Former Eurostat Director General, Yves Franchet has backed claims by Commission President Romano Prodi and three other Commissioners that they knew nothing of the scandal currently engulfing Eurostat before reports surfaced in the press.

Questions had been raised over whether Romano Prodi and three other Commissioners, Pedro Solbes (monetary affairs), Michaele Schreyer (budget), and Neil Kinnock (administrative reform) were aware of the fraud cases in Eurostat and failed to take any action, particularly since investigations have been ongoing for the past three years.

Mr Franchet is one of the two Eurostat officials currently under investigation over suspected siphoning of Union money into a private account during their tenure in key posts at the Luxembourg-based organisation.

In a declaration dated 19 June, Mr Franchet sought to clarify misunderstandings caused by an interview he gave at the beginning of May to television channels ARD and ARTE, in which he said Mr Prodi, along with the other relevant commissioners were kept informed of the events.

Yet Mr Franchet now says that he was referring to his activities as the head of Eurostat and not to the audit scandal in question.

He also stated that he could not transmit internal audit reports of Eurostat to the Commissioners, from which an Olaf (EU anti-fraud office) investigation had started.

"Mr Franchet needs to get his story straight. First he says Commissioners Kinnock, Schreyer and Solbes knew about Eurostat - now he says that they didn't. What is clear is that this case has damaged the claim made by Kinnock that he is cleaning up the EU," UK Conservative MEP Chris Heaton-Harris told the EUobserver.

The accusations against Mr Franchet and Daniel Byk (a former departmental director also implicated) focus on the dealings of a French consultancy called Planistat - the firm responsible for managing Eurostat's sales to private users.