Malta requests to join European public prosecutor’s office on tax evasion and fraud

Malta announced its intention to join the EPPO in the justice and home affairs ministers' meeting in the European Council

Justice minister Owen Bonnici
Justice minister Owen Bonnici

Malta has joined the EU public prosecutor’s office on cross-border financial fraud, after initially opting when 20 member states, including heavyweights Germany and France, set up an independent EU public prosecutor’s office to combat tax evasion and fraud.

The EU failed for years to win unanimous support for the project among the 28 member states, due to concerns over possible infringements of national sovereignty. In June 2017, 20 member states reached a political agreement on the establishment of the new European Public Prosecutor’s Office under enhanced cooperation. 

‘Enhanced cooperation’ allows a minimum of nine EU members to steam ahead on a proposal without approval from other member states.

The EU public prosecutor will have the authority to investigate and prosecute criminal cases affecting the EU budget, such as corruption or fraud with EU funds, or cross-border VAT fraud.

Member states today reaffirmed their wish to be closely involved in the practical setting up of the EPPO as well as the need to ensure good working cooperation between EPPO and other bodies such as Eurojust, OLAF and Europol. During the debate, Malta informed of its intention to join the EPPO.

The EPPO will have the authority, under certain conditions, to investigate and prosecute EU-fraud and other crimes affecting the Union's financial interests. It will bring together European and national law-enforcement efforts to counter EU fraud.

National budgets all over Europe are said to lose at least €50 billion of revenues from VAT every year through cross-border fraud.

The EPPO will be able to act quickly across borders without the need for lengthy judicial cooperation proceedings and bring actions against criminals directly in front of national courts.

Along with Ireland, Denmark and the United Kingdom, which have an opt-out right for the public prosecutor’s office, the other members that did not sign off on the project are Sweden, the Netherlands, Poland, and Hungary. They can opt-in later on.

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