OLAF Reports Cases of Fraud at Bulgarian Customs Offices

OLAF Reports Cases of Fraud at Bulgarian Customs Offices

Brussels, June 6 (BTA) - The European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF) published its 2017 Report on Wednesday, which describes cases of fraud at two Bulgarian customs offices.

The report says that during one particular investigation, OLAF checked 110 transit operations reported by the National Customs Agency in Bulgaria, who established that the operations had been unduly cleared.

The transit operations were initiated in various Member States, such as Poland, Hungary, Germany, France, Lithuania and Slovakia. For all of these operations, two Bulgarian customs border offices were mentioned as office of destination with final consignees in Serbia and Turkey. However, by inspecting these Bulgarian customs offices where the transit operations should have been processed, it was established that neither the vehicles nor the goods had ever been physically presented to customs.

Further checks revealed that, in some of the cases, the fraudulent electronic clearance of the operations took place a few hours after the operations had been initiated, which was physically impossible due to the timeframe needed for the actual transport. In addition, the Bulgarian customs were informed by both their Serbian and Turkish colleagues that the transports concerned never physically entered the territory of those two countries. The fraudulent clearance of the operations was carried out by means of malware which made it possible to hack into the Bulgarian transit system remotely.

The report further says that last year OLAF has concluded seven cases related to Bulgaria, four of which were closed with recommendations. A total of 119 irregularities in EU budget spending were detected and 16 recommendations were issued. OLAF notes that not every irregularity is fraudulent.

A total of 904 irregularities were detected in the work with cohesion funds in Bulgaria, with 43 investigations closed with recommendations. The indictment rate for Bulgaria was 41 per cent, compared to an EU average of 42 per cent. OLAF has received 27 alerts related to Bulgaria in 2017, 20 of which came from a private source and seven from a public source.

BTA's Brussels correspondent Nikolay Jeliazkov has contributed to this story.