08:54 GMT18 September 2020
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    Greece is one of the poorest countries in the European Union and after the 2008 financial crisis its economy was bailed out to the tune of £259 billion. It will take decades for Greece to pay off its huge debts to the EU and the International Monetary Fund.  

    A Greek university is at the heart of a 1.1 million euro fraud investigation by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).

    OLAF said a Greek scientist had used a network of international researchers to skim money from a 1.1 million euro grant the European Research Council Executive Agency (ERCEA) gave to a Greek university.

    ​They said the money was to be used by "a promising young scientist" to run a project involving 40 researchers from around the world.

    But when OLAF looked into the project they noticed the lead scientist - whose father worked at the university - was writing cheques to the individual researchers but they were being deposited into bank accounts with multiple beneficiaries.

    ​OLAF said the lead scientist tried to obstruct a digital forensic investigation but the Greek authorities provided access to bank accounts which allowed investigators to piece together the fraud.

    According to OLAF, the scientist had made herself a co-beneficiary of the accounts in order to gain access to the money which was supposedly being paid to the researchers.

    ​OLAF’s Director General Ville Itälä said: "The sheer size and scope of the network of researchers allegedly involved in this project posed a real challenge to OLAF’s investigators. Their ability to access and verify accounts set up to allegedly pay researchers from across the world was a vital element in getting to the bottom of this attempt to defraud the EU budget – and that could have had significant detrimental effects on the reputation of the bona fide researchers whose names were being exploited as part of the fraud attempt."

    ​The European Union is now seeking to recover 190,000 euros. OLAF has refused to name the scientist or the university involved.

    Tags:
    university, European Union (EU), European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), Greece
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