The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) filed an indictment against six defendants in the Vilnius District Court (Lithuania) for fraud relating to procurement procedures, which caused damages of €580 000 to the EU budget, since fully recovered thanks to the timely investigation.
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The defendants are a company active in the field of air filtering and industrial ventilation, along with two of its directors and three stakeholders of colluding companies.
They are accused of deliberately inflating the prices of robotic equipment used to manufacture air filters, which was purchased with funds from the 2014–2020 Operational Programme for EU Structural and Investment Funds, awarded by Innovation Agency Lithuania, thus obtaining up to €580 000 illicitly.
In order to retrace the criminal scheme, the investigators analysed a chain of fictitious financial transactions amounting to €1.2 million, as well as correspondence and contacts established with companies in France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and Turkey, in an inquiry that also involved the Financial Crime Investigation Service of Lithuania.
According to the investigation, the defendants organised the purchase of EU-funded equipment from foreign suppliers and simulated tenders that significantly inflated its price, compared to what was actually paid.
They are also accused of fraudulent bookkeeping and of forgery of documents, in order to mislead Innovation Agency Lithuania.
By March 2021, the agency had transferred around €580 000 to the company, to cover the costs ostensibly incurred.
All the suspects admitted to having committed the crimes of which they are accused. The company also, before the trial, fully repaid the amount it had illegally received.
For the most serious offences charged in this criminal case, among other alternative penalties, the criminal code of Lithuania foresees imprisonment of up to 8 years, and a fine of up to 100 000 MSL (amount of minimum subsistence level) applicable to companies (€4.9 million). ■