BUDAPEST Dec 22 The European Union should ask
Budapest to return more than 280 million euros it received to
help build a metro line in the Hungarian capital due to "fraud
and possible corruption", the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)
said on Thursday.
Passenger numbers on Budapest's metro line four, completed
in 2014, have fallen far short of initial expectations while the
1.7 billion euros ($1.8 billion) bill for the project was higher
than first estimated, local media have reported.
The project was co-financed with European Union cohesion
"The OLAF investigation uncovered serious irregularities -
fraud and possible corruption - and therefore the Office
recommended the Directorate General for Regional and Urban
Policy (DG REGIO) to recover 228 million euros," OLAF's press
office said in an email.
"OLAF also made a financial recommendation to the European
Investment Bank in relation to 55 million euros which formed
part of the various EIB loans the project was awarded," it said.
A spokesman for the city of Budapest said it had yet to see
OLAF's findings but suggested current officials could not have
"Based on our information the findings suggest financial
irregularities relate to the years 2006 and 2007, that is, a
period well before the current city management took office in
2010," a spokesman said in an email.
"The European Commission has yet to decide on any potential
repayment of the funds or part of the funds," the spokesman
A Hungarian government spokesman said: "The government gave
the city full support for the implementation of the project. The
rest was up to Budapest to realise."
The new metro line is one of the biggest infrastructure
projects completed in Hungary in the last decade, with planning
and construction starting before Prime Minister Viktor Orban
came to power in 2010.
The anti-fraud body said it had submitted judicial
recommendations to Hungarian and UK authorities, which should
take its findings into account in proceedings under way in both
EU states. It said this was necessary given the transnational
nature of the case as the fraud took place in more than one
country. It declined to go into detail.
($1 = 0.9580 euros)
(Reporting by Gergely Szakacs; Editing by Hugh Lawson)