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OLAF finds gross irregularities at Malta-based EU asylum office

EASO José Carreira
José Carreira.

The EU’s anti-fraud watchdog OLAF has uncovered a range of wrongdoings at the European Asylum Support service (EASO) located in Malta, relating mostly to executive director José Carreira.

EASO was found to have committed a range of irregularities that included breaches of procurement rules, irregularities in expenditure, abuse of power, harassment of staff members and inappropriate behaviour to them, as well as breaches of data protection laws, Politico reported.

The EU agency had a budget of €69 million in 2017.

Although it is located in Malta, the service is an EU operation run by European Union staff. OLAF, which investigates fraud against the EU budget, corruption and serious misconduct within the European institutions, has recommended disciplinary action against its former boss.

The EASO board will consider the recommendations from the investigation, including whether to take action against Carreira, next week.

Carreira took on the executive director role at EASO in April 2016. Prior to that he held senior management positions in several EU agencies in Spain, Germany, Greece, the UK, Poland and France. The Portuguese national denied the accusations, but stepped down last July amid the allegations.

Catherine Woollard, secretary general of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, a network of non governmental groups, said Carreira’s departure did not come as a surprise as information about matters at EASO had been leaking for a long time.

“The results of the investigation are not supported by facts and are mostly elaborated on opinions expressed. The agency and its staff have done extraordinary work to respond to what the European Union and its institutions have requested for facing the unprecedented refugee crisis, which demanded extraordinary measures based on what the regulations do allow,” he said to Politico.

The European Court of Auditors had also flagged irregularities in procurement and recruitment at EASO in November last year.

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