Hundreds of criminal investigations were initiated, damages to the European Union budget of € 5.3 billion (for more than one-third referable to criminal proceedings under the Italian jurisdiction). The detection of the strong involvement of organised crime in transactional VAT frauds along with maxi-scams that do not create social alarm despite being worth millions of euros.

In the detail, EPPO has initiated more than 600 formal criminal investigations, according to the legal rules that establish the competence of domestic and European authorities.

This is the balance sheet of the first period of activity of the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office (the so-called ‘EPPO’), the independent EU body that is in charge of investigating and prosecuting crimes affecting the financial interests of the Union before the courts of the Member States.

Italy has initiated the highest number of proceedings (22% of the total).

Furthermore, under the Italian jurisdiction, the criminal investigations have regarded 35% of the value of the total economic damages caused to the European Union.

Italy is also a European country that is most involved in cross-border proceedings, as well as the one that has carried out the highest number of seizures of the profits of the crimes.

So the question is how is that possible?

Most of the enlighten results are due to the ability of the Italian law enforcement authorities in detecting, identifying and investigating criminal phenomena. In fact, in some historical phases, the fight against organised and economic crime has been a priority for the country, which has also concentrated human and material resources on it. Instead, in other European countries, specialisation is more limited, collaboration is rare and resources are often distracted towards other priorities.

In this context, the Deputy European Public Prosecutor’s Office in Milan is the most efficient.

At the moment, the local Office in Milan is composed of 6 people and has been working on some relevant cases of transnational fraud.

This first period of functioning of EPPO has shown that is really necessary to improve the cooperation between the judicial authorities of European Member States, in order to strengthen the law enforcement activities in the fight against EU financial frauds.

In the light of the above, criminal lawyers are required to expand their focus and competencies: they need to practice also in English, to deeply understand the role and structure of EPPO and its functioning, study its role in the EU legal system and fully understand its procedural and substantial mechanism. Indeed, lawyers are required to be confident with sound working knowledge of European Union Law.

Fabrizio De’ Sanna
Fabio De Tullio
Criminal Lawyers in Milan.

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