9
dec
2019
EIB West Building – Board Room
98-100 Boulevard Konrad Adenauer
Luxembourg, Luxembourg

On 9 December 2019, on the occasion of the International Anticorruption Day, the EIB Inspectorate General’s Fraud Investigations Division organised the 4th EIB Anti-Corruption Conference. The conference gathered around 150 representatives from the EIB Group, national anti-corruption and anti-fraud authorities, European and international organisations, civil society, private sector and academia and aimed at raising awareness to the fight against fraud and corruption in Europe and worldwide. 

9 December marks the adoption of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) in 2003. Why is this day important to the EIB Group? In his introductory remarks, the Inspector General, Jan Willem van der Kaaij, underlined that the Bank seeks to align its policies and procedures with UNCAC, which remains the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument. In addition, the EIB plays an integral role in the EU’s efforts to ensure the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, whose achievement is also hinging on strengthening the anti-corruption efforts worldwide.

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“As the EU Bank and the biggest multilateral financial institution, we work hard to ensure our projects and activities are free from fraud and corruption”, emphasised Jan Willem van der Kaaij.

The highlight of the conference was a lecture by the newly appointed European Chief Prosecutor, Ms Laura Codruța Kövesi on “What matters in the international fight against fraud and corruption”.

Ms Kövesi started her lecture by underlining the importance of raising awareness to the impact fraud and corruption have on every one of us, in our daily activities and lives, even if sometimes this impact is not visible:

“When someone steals your wallet, you feel it instantly, as you don’t have your money anymore. Or, when someone hits you, you feel the pain in that moment. But, when a mayor takes a bribe, do you feel that? Or, when a minister gives a contract to a company and takes a bribe for that, do you feel anything? It takes information, education, critical thinking, awareness and civic responsibility to understand that corruption affects us all and that it makes our lives worse,” pointed out Ms Kövesi.

Ms Kövesi illustrated this by giving some examples of cases she investigated as prosecutor in Romania, which illustrate that fraud and corruption not only result in the decrease of the quality of public services and/or higher prices, but can also have a deadly impact on the lives of people due to illegally obtained construction permits,

Effective investigations and prosecutions are the best way to combat fraud and corruption: for this, specialised institutions are needed, as well as an independent judiciary, the appropriate legal framework and appropriate recovery mechanisms for the proceeds of crimes.

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The European Chief Prosecutor also spoke about the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO). Her duty is to make it operational at the end of 2020. It will be composed of 22 prosecutors at central level representing every participating Member State. They will supervise investigations, which will be performed by the European Delegated Prosecutors in each Member State. The European Delegated Prosecutors will be embedded in the national system, meaning that they are going to be considered by the law enforcement authorities as national, specialised prosecutors. The EPPO will be prosecuting in front of national courts.

Ms Kövesi ended her lecture with a clear and strong message regarding the future EPPO: “Every institution is only as strong as the people who make it. The greatest challenge for the EPPO will be to find and keep the right people: professionals, courageous, independent, whose personal integrity is beyond doubt.”

In his concluding remarks, Bernie O’Donnell Head of the Fraud Investigations Division emphasised the main factors in the international fight against fraud and corruption: strong investigative offices with a clear mandate and capabilities to enable them to perform effectively, public awareness, political will, leading by example, using the power of technology and cooperation at national, European and international level. “None of us has found the global cure to fraud and corruption, but by putting our knowledge together we might get a shot at it,“ concluded Bernie O’Donnell.