The UK’s national newspaper, The Guardian, recently reported that the EU’s fraud watchdog, OLAF, is considering an investigation into Nigel Farage investigation. According to journalist Jennifer Rankin in a story of 25 May, the agency is carrying out an assessment of payments made by Arron Banks.
It’s not a full-blown inquiry, but it’s a rare and significant step for OLAF to consider investigating a member of the EP for payments received in the year of the Brexit referendum.
The story goes, ‘in 2016, Farage received expenses of about £450,000, including rent on a Chelsea home, furniture, security and promotional trips to the US, where he attended the Republican national convention.’
However, ‘nothing was declared, an apparent violation of the European parliament’s code of conduct, which states that MEPs must report expensive gifts and attendance at events bankrolled by third parties.’
The story is insightful insofar as it helps readers understand how OLAF works: ‘The agency usually takes two months to carry out an assessment, which will examine whether the case falls under its remit and if there is “sufficient suspicion of fraud, corruption or any illegal activity affecting the EU’s financial interests”.
OLAF stated, ‘The fact that Olaf will assess the information received does not mean that the individuals in question are guilty of any wrongdoing. Olaf fully respects the presumption of innocence.
As The Guardian story correctly informs, ‘OLAF investigates fraud against the EU budget, from evasion of customs duties to corrupt claims of EU funds. Its investigation of Marine Le Pen found that the French far-right leader had paid her bodyguard and a Paris-based assistant using money intended for staffing her parliamentary offices in Brussels and Strasbourg. Le Pen, who has always denied the charges, lost an appeal in the European court of justice this week against an order to repay the EU nearly €300,000 (£265,00).’