EU anti-fraud officers investigate the allegations that EU bureaucrats fake cleaners' contracts

Belgian and European Union anti-fraud officers have begun an investigation into allegations that EU bureaucrats faked contracts with cleaners to pocket EU funds.

The European Commission's anti-fraud office, OLAF, and the Brussels prosecutor's office are conducting the investigation into the claims, spokesman Maximillian Strotmann told reporters.

Belgian media reported that commission employees had drafted fake contracts with a Belgian cleaning contractor to syphon off money over the past four years worth some EUR60 million (US$80.6 million).

A contract signed with the Belgian firm between 2003 and 2007 "may have been executed in an irregular manner," OLAF spokesman Alessandro Buttice said. The company, which was not named, had been tasked to clean all European Commission buildings.

"The investigation mainly focused on companies and, or individuals external" to the EU institutions, Buttice said in a statement. He said the EU's own anti-fraud office had launched an internal probe back in 2005 and submitted its investigation to Belgian judicial authorities in March.

Strotmann said it was unclear how much money was involved in the case, but said the EU executive office's budget for cleaning services was between EUR30 million and EUR40 million (US$40 million and US$54 million) over the past five years.

A separate investigation led to the arrests in March of an Italian businessman and two EU officials in another corruption scandal involving EU contracts.