Did you ever stop to think that the cigarettes you are smoking might be counterfeites? That you are funding criminals? Or that the coins you use might be fake, too?

All of which has negative impact on Europe's finances to which every working European citizen contributes.

Fraud can seep in anywhere where the euro is in circulation whether it's the diversion of money meant for infrastructure projects, for agriculture or for other European programmes.

A European body was set up in 1999 to recover funds that have disappeared from the European budget. It is called OLAF, the European Anti-Fraud Office. OLAF is part of the European Commission but it has an independent status to conduct investigations entirely freely. This operational independence is still subject to a monitoring committee appointed by common agreement by the European Parliament, the European Council and the Commission.

OLAF must also present to MEPs an annual report on its activities which will be debated in Parliament.

OLAF therefore ensures that European taxpayers' money is used in accordance with its original purpose.

Around 400 people work for OLAF, half of whom are investigators. They all have investigative experience in their countries, in customs, in criminal investigations, or they are former prosecutors and lawyers.

But to open an investigation OLAF must first receive an allegation, either from European citizens or from European institutions. In 2014, for example, OLAF received more than 1400 such allegations.

OLAF then concerns itself with centralised spending, foreign aid, agricultural funds, customs, the market place and, to a lesser extent tobacco and counterfeit items.


But to Europe's authorities follow the advice of OLAF?

Credit to EuroparlTV