Author: Dicarlo Martina, Lomagistro Camilla, Istituto di istruzione superiore Gandhi.
Committee: Investigations & Activities Committe, High School Committee.
Date: 11/07/2024


The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) is an independent institution of the European Union, operational since 1 June 2021 under the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon, based in Luxembourg and with competence to investigate and prosecute crimes affecting the financial interests of the EU. Before the EPPO became operational, this competence was attributed only to the national authorities, who acted with instruments limited by narrow territorial borders. The establishment of a European Public Prosecutor’s Office helps to remedy these shortcomings by providing for an “enhanced cooperation” procedure which involves all 23 member countries. From an organizational point of view, the EPPO has a structure divided into two levels: a central level and a national level. The central level is based in Luxembourg and is made up of a European Chief Prosecutor supported by 22 European Prosecutors and supported by technical and investigative staff. The European Chief Prosecutor manages the EPPO, organizes its work and represents it in contacts with EU institutions, Member States and third countries. In October 2019 Laura Codruta Kövesi was appointed as the first European Chief Prosecutor. The College of Prosecutors, made up of the European Chief Prosecutor and the Prosecutors of the participating member states, is responsible for defining the strategy and internal regulations of the EPPO and for supervising the investigations conducted by the European Delegated Prosecutors at national level. The national level is made up of the European Delegated Prosecutors (PEDs) and the Permanent Chambers. The European Delegated Prosecutors in the 23 member EU countries are responsible for carrying out investigations and carrying out criminal prosecutions and operate in full independence from their respective national authorities.


In all participating Member States, European prosecutors have the same priorities and implement the same criminal prosecution policy as defined by the EPPO College. The EPPO deals with complex cross-border investigations of sophisticated criminal activities in the economic and financial fields, in particular those involving serious organised crime. In 2022, the EPPO almost completed the disposal of the backlog of cases opened by the national authorities before it became operational and handled all new suspected fraud reports from all possible sources. In total, it received 3 318 complaints and initiated 865 investigations, for an estimated damage of EUR 9,9 billion. The percentage of reports from private individuals (58%) is very high and indicates high expectations of the EPPO as a court of the European Union. As of 31 December 2022, there were 1117 active surveys:

-16,5 % concerned VAT fraud for damage estimated at EUR 6,7 billion;

-28,2 % was cross-border (acts committed on the territory of several countries or causing damage to several countries).

In 2022, EPPO’s work started to develop positively with regard to the level of detection of fraud affecting the EU’s financial interests in some Member States. Although a similar dynamic could not be observed on the side of Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies, EU fraud investigations in the 22 participating Member States are now more numerous than the historical average before the establishment of the EPPO. This is particularly evident with regard to EU budget revenue, where increased attention by some national authorities is beginning to bear fruit, in parallel with the wide-ranging vision of EPPO and its ability to identify links that have so far remained hidden. However, there remain significant discrepancies that need to be addressed in order to enable the European Public Prosecutor’s Office to bring about lasting change, in particular in the fight against cross-border VAT fraud. Operation Admiral has shown that all EU jurisdictions can be involved, regardless of where and when the damage occurred or was detected. This operation also revealed the complex international ramifications of this serious type of financial crime. Finally, having started to implement a permanently damage recovery approach to investigations, ‘EPPO has identified further scope for improving its investigative practices and methods.


At least in cases where the offence subject to the investigation is punishable by a maximum penalty of at least 4 years of imprisonment, Member States shall ensure that the EDPs are entitled to order or request the following investigation measures:

– If reasonable grounds to believe that the specific measure might provide information or evidence useful to the investigation and if no less intrusive measure available

– Procedures and modalities for taking the measures shall be governed by the applicable national law may be subject to conditions in accordance with the applicable national law if the latter are explicitly foreseen for specific categories of persons or professionals legally bound by an obligation of confidentiality.

In summary, at the end of last year at the European Public Prosecutor’s Office were active 1,927 investigations (of which over 200 related to the funding of NextGenerationEU) that have identified an estimated shortfall to the Community budget of 19.2 billion euros. In addition, in 2023, 139 indictments were made (over 50% more than in 2022) and seizure orders were issued for 1.5 billion euros (an amount four times greater than in 2022).


In the strategy adopted by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office to effectively combat EU fraud, “following money” is central, as taught by Judge Giovanni Falcone. Falcone’s motto is quoted by Eppo’s chief prosecutor in the introduction to the report, adding that focusing on money is crucial for the Prosecutor’s Office (“The EPPO makes it possible to go one step, and ‘focus on the money'”). The Report highlights, However, that compared to the total number of investigations opened only a small part – 17.5% (339 surveys, in absolute values) – allows to identify 59% of revenue losses (11.5 billion on a total of 19.2 billion euros) mostly caused by complex cross-border VAT fraud. It is noted, at the same time, that this type of tax offence increasingly involves organised criminal organisations and does not allow individual states to implement remedies that have only a purely national perspective.


In an international and European context of strong changes like the one we are going through, the EU Green Deal was presented to us as a new strategy compliant with the current criteria of the global phenomenon, in the name of sustainability and climate change. This strategy fits into the current economic, cultural, geopolitical and, of course, legal transformations. It is so strong that the goal is to make it one of the most important policies of recent years. It affects all sectors of the economy and industry, but especially those most closely linked to the ecological transition, such as agriculture and food, which implies rural development. But in this regard, it is necessary to ask ourselves whether this strategy is a support or rather an obstacle to the traditional objectives of the CAP – art. 39 TFEU -, although the new CAP had to be aligned with the demanding measures relating to the environment and climate change. The evaluation of all this can be summed up in the current resistance of the agricultural sector. This is to be expected, as environmental changes and the European climate change agenda are being pushed forward too quickly.


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