Categorieën
Archief Kennisparels

[255] 23 augustus 2021: The Impact of Organised Crime on the EU’s Financial Interests

Inleiding en context

Goede morgen beste ontvangers en hopelijk ook lezers van de bijgesloten ´kennisparel´, het is vandaag maandag 23 augustus 2021. Een nieuwe week dus ik begin maar weer eens muzikaal, dit keer met een klassiek nummer uit de film Pulp Fiction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hLIXrlpRe8 Mooi nummer van Dick Dale & The Del Tones oorspronkelijk uit 1963: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIU0RMV_II8

Maar nu naar de ´kennisparel´ van vandaag, een analyse van de impact van georganiseerde misdaad en corruptie op de EU-begroting en financiële belangen, met name verliezen voor de EU-begroting door criminele activiteiten. Het gaat dan vaak om misbruik en fraude van Europese subsidiefondsen met een georganiseerd karakter. Het betreft een beredeneerde omvangschatting. Verder wordt onderzocht wat de verschillen en gemeenschappelijke benaderingswijzen zijn die door de lidstaten worden gebruikt om de georganiseerde misdaad te bestrijden en de doeltreffendheid ervan te beoordelen. De analyse laat ook zien wat de risico’s zijn die verband houden met de infiltratie van criminele organisaties in de legale economie.  Op basis van de gehanteerde schatting wordt vastgesteld dat de fraude met EU-fondsen door de georganiseerde misdaad waarschijnlijk zo’n 50 miljard euro aan uitgaven en inkomsten per jaar zal bedragen. Wanneer  de uitgaven- en inkomstenkant wordt bekeken blijkt uit het onderzoek dat jaarlijks tussen de 1 en 2 procent met de EU-begroting wordt gefraudeerd. Dat is een flink bedrag waarmee volgens de onderzoekers de EU-volksgezondheidskosten in verband met de COVID-19-pandemie gedekt zouden kunnen worden. Maar nu naar de samenvatting van bijgesloten ´kennisparel´. Ik heb trouwens voor het gemak ook de meer uitgebreide samenvatting van het onderzoek bijgesloten.

Bron

Malan, Jack & Ivan Bosch Chen (July 2021). The Impact of Organised Crime on the EU’s Financial Interests. Brussels: European Parliament, Policy Department for Budgetary Affairs, 73 pp. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2021/697019/IPOL_STU(2021)697019_EN.pdf en de bijlage met de ´country fact sheets´: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2021/697019/IPOL_STU(2021)697019(ANN01)_EN.pdf

Samenvatting

To summarise, the objectives of this study were to:

  • Analyse the impact of organised crime and corruption on the EU’s budget and financial interests, particularly losses to the EU budget through criminal activities.
  • Examine the differences and common approaches used by Member States to investigate organised crime and assess their effectiveness.

This step will later involve investigating and quantifying how much costs could be reduced if Member States implemented best practice. In relation to the first objective, the study was required to produce a ‘best estimate’, quantified as far as possible, of the potential losses to the EU budget that could be prevented or recovered if all EU-27 Member States implemented the best practice approaches identified to tackle organised crime. The analysis was also to examine the risks related to the infiltration of criminal organisations into the legal economy, bearing in mind the imminent entry into operation of the economic recovery tools to help mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. In terms of scope, the study examined both the expenditure and revenue sides of EU finances and the extent to which these different aspects are affected by fraud that is perpetrated by organised crime. Although many aspects of the research cover the EU as a whole, the research involving Member States focused on a sample of 15 EU Member States (BG, CZ, DE, DK, ES, FR, GR, HU, LU, LT, NL, MT, PL, SE, SK). The sample was selected and designed to provide a representative spread in terms of a number of key variables (geography, use of EU funding, organised crime activity and national approaches to combating the problem). The original sample was smaller but expanded to include a number of other countries including the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Malta as there have been recent notable cases of organised crime and fraud and these countries are consequently of interest to the Budgetary Control Committee.

Fraud perpetrated by organised crime against the EU’s finances is a serious problem that significantly reduces the capacity of the EU to address the many challenges that Europe faces. It has even been suggested that the losses to the EU finances, if prevented or recouped, would be sufficient to cover the public health costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Although thought to be on a large scale, the extent to which organized crime is benefiting illegally from the EU’s finances is difficult to estimate with great precision. In part this is because of definitional issues, specifically the fact that there are differing definitions of organised crime, but also because by its very nature there is likely to be a large ‘hidden’ element of undetected fraud against the EU finances. Our best estimate based on the research and the calculations in Section 4 is that fraud perpetrated by organised crime is likely to amount to some EUR 50 billion expenditure and revenue p.a. Assuming a uniform VAT call rate of 0.3% this means that the EU budget is likely to incur losses of EUR 150 million of revenues that can be attributed to organised crime groups together with a further EUR 2.0 billion to EUR 2.7 billion p.a. on the expenditure side. This amounts to between 1% and 2% of the EU’s budget of EUR 165.8 billion for 2020 budget.

On the revenue side, organized crime activities relate to VAT fraud, the most common type, and to customs fraud. ‘Missing trader fraud’ is thought to account for most of this and because of the complexity of the schemes is likely to be almost exclusively perpetrated by organised crime groups. When it comes to MTIC fraud, it is estimated that between EUR 40 billion to EUR 60 billion is lost per annum to organised crime groups. Another estimate put the size of VAT fraud at € 50 billion p.a., one of several contributing factors to the VAT gap of nearly € 160 billion p.a. estimated by the Commission in 2014. Another indication, from the UK, is that VAT fraud had amounted to some EUR 2 billion per annum in the UK. A significant factor is the growing proportion of VAT fraud associated with e-commerce which is now thought to account for somewhere between 8-12% of the VAT ‘gap’. In relation to EU expenditure, fraud tends to be perpetrated to a greater extent than on the revenue side by both individuals and businesses as well as organized crime groups.

On the other hand, while the picture is clearer on the extent to which organised crime is involved in defrauding EU revenues, authorities are unclear as to how much fraud of EU expenditures is committed by organised crime. OLAF suggests in its last PIF annual report (2019) that Member States identified 11,726 irregularities (fraudulent and non-fraudulent) to the Commission amounting in 2019 to EUR 1.6 billion (a decline of 34% compared to 2018). Not all these irregularities are, however, accounted for by fraud. Specifically in relation to the cohesion and fisheries funds, OLAF estimates that some EUR 366 million of the EUR 1.6 billion could have been the subject of fraudulent activities. Our own estimates suggest that the figure could be much higher than this. Several reports highlight the danger that organised crime groups will take advantage of the support and recovery schemes launched to help the EU recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. As noted above, our own quantitative modelling suggests a higher figure for fraud on the expenditure side.

Afsluitend

Tja zal een aantal lezers denken, alweer een omvangschatting waar je niet echt weet wat je ermee aan moet. Omvangschattingen zijn natuurlijk altijd omgeven met de nodige bezwaren en onzekerheden. Naar mijn mening is het echter een goede poging die voor replicatie vatbaar is in de verschillende EU-lidstaten. Het zou interessant zijn wanneer daar in Nederland ook eens serieus naar gekeken zou worden. Maar dat is aan de beslissers op de verschillende vakdepartementen. In ieder geval werk aan de winkel voor onderzoekers op financieel en criminologisch terrein.