A SENIOR EU official who resigned after accepting ‘freebies’ from Qatar has now officially been placed under investigation by the EU’s anti-fraud office.
Henrik Hololei, the European Union’s transport chief, announced on Wednesday that he was stepping down as director general of the European Commission’s transport department – but, in true EU-style, had been allowed to simply move to a different department and retain his high taxpayer-funded salary.
The move means that, despite now being placed under investigation, Hololei will continue to benefit from the EU gravy train whilst not having to carry out any managerial responsibilities.
The scandal comes after POLITICO revealed that he accepted free flights on Qatar Airways.
scrutiny over the free trips, which came while his team negotiated a major aviation deal with the Gulf state.
Hololei was found to have approved the flights himself, with the EU’s not-so-transparent rules permitting him to do so. However, the rules were later changed following the revelations.
The EU’s anti-fraud office, known as ‘OLAF’, investigates fraud against the EU budget, corruption and serious misconduct within the European institutions, and develops anti-fraud policy for the European Commission.
“We can confirm that OLAF has opened an investigation into the matter,” the agency said in a statement to POLITICO. However, the probe, they stressed, “does not mean that the persons/entities involved have committed an irregularity/fraud.”
The investigation follows a string of scandals involving EU officials Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).
Some of the most prominent scandals of late include the February arrest of Italian MEP Stefania Zambelli.
Italian police in the city of Brescia seized more than €170,000 from Zambelli as part of an ongoing probe into the misuse of European Union funds paid to her parliamentary aides.
The investigation focuses on four of Zambelli’s assistants, with police confiscating bank accounts and luxury cars.
In December of last year, EU Parliament Vice President Eva Kalli was charged with corruption, also – as with Hololei – in connection to dealings with Qatar.
Kaili, a Greek MEP, was arrested on Friday as part of the corruption probe by Belgian authorities into suspected illicit lobbying by the Persian Gulf country, the host of the ongoing World Cup football tournament.
“It is suspected that third parties in political and/or strategic positions within the European Parliament were paid large sums of money or offered substantial gifts to influence Parliament’s decisions,” the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Three others, including former MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, also charged in the investigation into alleged illicit lobbying by World Cup host.
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