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Romania: EPPO carries out searches in investigation into fraudulent purchase of tugboats for Lower Danube Delta

April 23, 2024

Today, 27 March 2024, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Cluj-Napoca (Romania) is leading 12 searches in an investigation against officials of the  Administration of the Galati Lower Danube River Administration (Administratia Fluviala a Dunarii de Jos Galati – AFDJ) and the Romanian Naval Authority (Autoritatea Navala Româna – ANR), https://www.eppo.europa.eu/ reads.   At issue is a suspected fraud relating to the procurement of two tugboats – powerful boats used for towing larger boats and ships – for the Lower Danube Delta. Three searches took place this morning in three public institutions – one in Galati County and two in Constanta County. Another seven searches were conducted at the homes of public officials working for those institutions, and two took place at private companies.   According to the evidence gathered in this investigation so far, public officials of the AFDJ Galati, in their capacity as its representatives, obtained EU funding from the Large Infrastructure Operational Programme (POIM) for the purchase of two multi-purpose tugboats. This was the result of a public procurement contract launched in September 2019, for a total value of RON 35 144 000 (approximately €7 million).It is alleged that the public officials  submitted inaccurate documents in order to finance the project. Although the boats were solely intended for river navigation, the suspects drew up the tendering specifications on the basis of the more restrictive technical characteristics and construction requirements specific to seagoing vessels.   As a result, the type of vessels falling within the criteria of the tender specifications was very limited, which prevented other economic operators from participating in the tendering process, and ultimately favoured only one applicant.    Following the finalisation of the contract with the supplier company, the two tugboats were delivered in July 2021 with a higher nautical draught than originally provided for in the tender specifications and the purchase contract. This made them exclusively suited for the Maritime Danube, where the depth of the water permits navigation with a higher draught – therefore rendering the two boats unusable for river navigation, because they could not transit through the full reservoirs of the Danube river sector. This caused a damage to the EU budget amounting to approximately €7 million.    The ongoing house searches, intended for evidence gathering, are mobilising dozens of police officers from : the EPPO Support Structure in Romania, the Galati Organised Crime Brigade (Brigada de Combatere a Criminalitatii Organizate Galati), Constanta County Anticorruption Service from the Anti-Corruption General Directorate (Serviciul Judetean Anticoruptie din cadrul DGA), Galati County Police Inspectorate  SAS-(Inspectoratul de Politie al Judetului Galati-SAS) and the Romanian Gendarmerie –  County Inspectorate of Gendarmes Galati  (Inspectoratul Judetean de Jandarmi Galati).   The EPPO is the independent public prosecution office of the European Union. It?is responsible for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to judgment crimes against the financial interests of the EU.?

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