The annual report of the European Union's Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) says its efforts resulted in recovery of 691 million euros ($870 million) of taxpayers' money in 2011.
In addition, the agency said on Tuesday its recommendations had led to legal action in member states that had resulted in a combined 511 years of prison sentences in criminal cases. Of 463 total cases handled by OLAF in 2011, about a quarter related to EU staff, mostly in the agriculture sector.
"Thanks to our investigations, a considerable amount of money was recovered to EU taxpayers and a large number of criminals were brought to justice in national courts for crimes against the EU budget," said OLAF's Director-General, Giovanni Kessler, in a statement on the agency's website.
"In this financial climate, the fight against fraud and corruption is of particular importance and should be a priority in all member states."
OLAF's mission is to protect the financial interests of the EU by pursing cases of fraud and corruption. It also looks into matters relating to the discharge of professional duties by members and staff of EU institutions.
In one case described in the OLAF report, a project for a plant in Bulgaria was to receive EU funding. Acting on a claim that the company that won the bid for the job had misrepresented its qualifications and eligible experience, OLAF said investigations in several EU member nations confirmed these suspicions.
OLAF said it passed the file to the Bulgarian judicial authorities, which had opened a criminal investigation.
OLAF recommended the initial seven million euros that had been given with the contract be returned, and that the remaining funding for the 34-million-euro project be cancelled.
Author: Matt Zuvela
Editor: Ian P. Johnson