The European Commission has pledged 14.5 million euros to support Member States in fighting fraud, corruption and other illegal activities. Under the Hercule III Anti-fraud Programme, the Commission will finance projects such as training customs officers to better recognize illegal trade or investing in x-ray scanners to help stamp out smuggling.
“Member States must be properly equipped to address fraud against the EU budget," said Giovanni Kessler, Director-General of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). "That is why we are financing tangible projects, which can ensure fraudsters are caught and taxpayers’ money is protected,” he added.
As set out in the Commission decision adopted on 17 February, the budget available for the Hercule Programme has been increased from EUR 14.1 million in 2015 to EUR 14.5 million in 2016. More grants will be available for Member States’ national and regional authorities to purchase specialized technical equipment, following the continued, massive interest for Hercule Technical Assistance grants. As part of the Programme, OLAF will strengthen its cooperation with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), to enable Member States’ administrations to obtain access to maritime data for investigation purposes. Hercule III will also fund a study to develop a methodology to measure the illicit tobacco trade from third countries into the European Union. Moreover, OLAF will join forces with Member States' customs and police forces, to organise common purchases of investigation equipment.
Speeding up the implementation of the Hercule III Programme, the European Commission will publish three Calls for Proposals in March 2016. Customs, tax authorities, universities and legal experts in the Member States will have the opportunity to present proposals for innovative projects that can truly protect the EU budget from fraud and corruption.