“An historical first step towards the harmonisation of criminal law on crimes committed against the EU budget was taken today when the European Parliament adopted the Directive on the Protection of the Union's Financial Interests (PIF)”, said Inge Gräßle MEP, Chairwoman of the Budgetary Control Committee who drafted the Parliament report on the issue.
The PIF Directive on the fight against fraud to the Union’s financial interest by means of criminal law establishes the legal basis for the work of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) and provides the necessary tools for the work.
“It is very important for European taxpayers that VAT fraud was included in the scope of the Directive”, underlined Gräßle. The Directive gives the EPPO a mandate to take action in cases where losses are of at least ten million Euros in two or more Member States.
The PIF Directive also establishes other important minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences, sanctions and limitation periods in the field of the fight against fraud and other illegal activities affecting the financial interests of the European Union. For example, Member States must set a maximum penalty for natural persons of at least 4 years' imprisonment when damages of at least €100,000 are involved.
“Parliament made very clear in the agreement that was adopted that the maximum penalties as well as the threshold for all offences are binding to all Member States”, recalled Inge Gräßle. "It is also important that the European Commission assesses the elements of the Directive within three years. This gives us the opportunity to sharpen the tools after seeing how they work in practise", she concluded.