The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has opened an investigation into allegations of financial irregularities in the construction of a Bucharest metro line. OLAF confirmed to Radio France International Romania that it has sent inspectors to carry out checks on the project, which is part funded in part by the European Union.
According to Hotnws.ro, OLAF suspects that inflated payments have been made to the consortium behind the project, which is led by the Italian company Astaldi. The same sources claim that some employees of Metrorex, the Bucharest Metro operator owned by the Ministry of Transport, were aware of the overpayments.
OLAF said in a statement that as the investigation is ongoing it cannot comment any further, adding that it does not know how long the investigation will last. “The duration depends on several factors, including the complexity of each case, the number of states and persons involved, the scale of cooperation between the Commission and the other parties and exercising the right to defense,” OLAF said.
In 2016 the average length of an OLAF case was 16.9 months.
Bucharest’s 5th metro line is one of the most anticipated infrastructure projects in the Romanian capital. Projected to serve 64,000 passengers a day it will link that west of the city with the centre within 15 minutes. In a statement announcing the 251.8 million euro grant from the EU for the metro extension, Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Creţu said: “Thanks to the EU, Bucharest is now building a modern metro, which will ultimately have a positive impact on the quality of air in the city, as well as on local businesses, tourism, and of course, the residents of the newly-served neighbourhoods.”
The initial completion deadline was 2015, but it has been postponed a number of times, the last date given being the end of 2018; however, some sources estimate that it will 2020 before the metro line is operational.
The investigation into possible financial irregularities surrounding the metro extension is not the only OLAF-initiated inquiry taking place in Romania at present. Working from a recommendation from the Brussels-based anti-fraud office, Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) last year began a probe into Liviu Dragnea, head of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), on suspicion of embezzling 21 million euro of European funds during his time as leader of Teleorman county council.