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THREE ARRESTED FOR EU TOURISM FRAUD

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Two former officials of the European Commission in Brussels were arrested on Friday by Belgian police investigating...
Two former officials of the European Commission in Brussels were arrested on Friday by Belgian police investigating allegations of bribes and fraud totalling millions of pounds from the EU's tourism budget, reported The Guardian (6 Jan, p13).

Exact figures for the missing total are unclear, but it could amount to the biggest scam by commission officials in its 40 year history, and the first in which civil police have been called in to handle a large investigation.

The arrests of George Tzoanos, the Greek former head of the commission's tourism unit, his wife and a Frenchman named Pascal Chatillon, who worked on a temporary contract for the unit, follow a nine-month investigation by the Belgian fraud squad, involving checks on travel companies and tourist organisations across Europe.

Both men are alleged to have received kickbacks from companies in return for channelling subsidies to promote tourism to them. In some cases the projects never existed.

The tourism unit has an annual budget of about £5m, the paper reported. It is thought that the two men received payments equal to between 10% and 50% of the money they handed out. Complaints first arose about the management of the European Year of Tourism in 1990 and the allegations concern irregularities between 1989 and 1994.

The two men were suspended from duty nearly two years ago. Although they were later sacked after an investigation by commission officials last autumn, the case is likely to raise new questions about European bureaucracy's accountability.

Police became involved only after they were invited to investigate by British Conservative MEP Edward McMillan- Scott. He issued a formal complaint after the commission failed to do so.

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