WATCHING THE DETECTIVES
December 2, 2002
Will OLAF - the EU's fraud-busters - usher in a new era of accountability and examine the role of Masons in the EU institutions - certainly those involved in the Quatraro case?
Despite the serious work of the EU's anti-fraud unit, OLAF, its Brussels office is not bereft of investigators with a sense of humour. In the first week of December, when Dougal Watt returned to Luxembourg after seven months of self-imposed exile, to return to his job in the European Court of Auditors, one OLAF official pointed out that the new James Bond film will also be released in cinemas in Belgium. Yet Dougal Watt's sensational genre of whistle-blowing does initially arrest those that follow it with a feeling of being part of an Ian Fleming novel. Unlike others that have turned their back on a guaranteed life of privilege and comfort, the Scottish auditor, fled Luxembourg in April of this year, leaving behind a trail of havoc littered with accusations of corruption, nepotism and even sexual harassment. Yet when the dust settled, EU court officials and OLAF investigators found it harder to sustain the widely-held view that our man in Luxembourg had lost his PPK. Watt was not mad. His view that he feared for his life, once understood in its proper context, was reasonable - particularly when the full extent of his allegations were grasped.
Over a seven year period in the court, while rising through the ranks and gaining authority, his access to unsolved audit cases - dating back ten years - increased, as did his ever-increasing suspicion of a cover-up by his superiors. But it wasn't until 2001 when everything began to fall into place and he identified a Masonic dimension to a string of major cases remaining "unresolved". Probably the most controversial was the repeated reluctance to investigate EU officials above and below Antonio Quatraro, who, in 1993, committed suicide when singled out as the chief culprit in a tobacco sales corruption case, while working under the EC's Agriculture Director General.
OLAF officials also find it inconceivable that the investigation at the time - and subsequent 'review' from the EU court, have not ventured beyond Quatraro. And to be fair to the EU's anti-fraud office, the justification for re-investigating the tobacco sales scam which led to Quatraro taking his won life is a legal minefield. A statute of limitation usually prevents OLAF from investigating officials after a five year period. Also, the actual location of where the fraud took place creates nightmares for legal officers that would have to co-operate with national judiciary systems.
And yet perhaps there is a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. Although OLAF were co-operating with judges in Italy until as late as 1998 (as Italy had its own investigation into the embezzlement of public funds), the legal basis for the EU to investigate was very shaky.
Until now, that is.
Just last month, The Convention of Protection of Financial Interests - a 1995 agreement between 15 national EU governments - came into force. For the first time ever, this means that OLAF has the powers to investigate EU fraud as a criminal offence, in tandom with the Belgian judiciary system (as the Convention contains a specific protocol on EU officials, that until now could effectively hide in the shadows away from the legal spotlight). Its significance towards corruption within the EU is considerable. And this week, The Sprout can confidently say that it played a small but pivotal role in bringing Dougal's Watt's case to OLAF - which will be looking to Watt to provide it with evidence, before re-investigating those responsible for controlling Quatraro, before deciding to sacrifice him.
The timing of Watt's appearance on the scene again is interesting. Not only does it coincide with this new Convention which could open up old X-files, but his co-operation with OLAF might also trigger a long-overdue debate about the Commission's reform. Just recently, in the UK, a Minister was behind a poll sent to police officers in Britain asking them to declare whether they were members of Masonic lodges. Why not ask EU officials to declare their Masonic ties also?
Watt is convinced that a number of investigations in the CoA were not carried out thoroughly due to Masonic influence, leaving many of us thinking of the Conan Doyle novel, The Adventure of the Silver Blaze.
Inspector Gregory: "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"[email protected]