Archive for category Documentaries

EU-money to the mafia, the tobacco industry and multinationals?

Journalists have dug out the beneficiaries of EU-farmsubsidies for citizens to see them at Farmsubsidy.org.

Now a new team of journalists has dug out the recipients of the other large lump on the EU-budget: The regional funding. In a unique cooperation and 8 months research the new London Bureau for Investigative Journalism and the Financial Times have cooperated and followed the money – resulting in important stories.
The team behind has made accessible the underlying database for everyone to search.

Today the Watchdog Blog is happy to present a guest comment by Annamarie Cumiskey, senior journalist at the London Bureau and highly experienced in European affairs.

By Annamarie Cumiskey

It’s a myth that the Italian mafia puts a horses head in your bed if it doesn’t like you. They put a dead dogs’ head in front of your door instead.

And, I know this because while working with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, www.tbij.com in London, in collaboration with the Financial Times, I had chance to meet Colonnello Pierone, the man whose job it is to put mafia bosses behind bars in Southern Italy.

We met to talk about EU structural funds, as part of an eight month long investigation that is being rolled out this week, when the dead dogs’ head came up.

The dead dog was found in our new online database, not literally, but through one of the many ways the Italian mafia has found to get its dirty hands on European taxpayers money.

We brought together all the lists of beneficiaries of the ERDF and ESF under the current €347bn spending round – over 650,000 projects.
One project, the modernisation of the Salerno – Reggio Calabria highway in Southern Italy, has been allocated €400,000, and since then the local mafia have been putting dead dog heads in front of construction workers doors to frighten them into paying extortion money.

Some of the gang members are more sophisticated white-collar criminals, and they really have collared EU grant aid – €1.2bn in recent years according to a report by the Italian financial police.

Don’t worry they can always seek repentence for their sins at the EU grant aided Church of Madonna di Polsi nearby that also happens to be their spiritual home.

The Italian mafia makes it look so easy, and that’s the problem it is.
The Italian mafia, fortunately, is an extreme case of how EU funds are abused, but it shows how impotent the EU institutions are to stop this.  And, this will stay the same due to the inherent nature of the EU – 80% of its budget is spent at national level, and the EU can’t control what happens there.

Al Jazeera, BBC Radio 4 File-on-Four, BBC World Service and France 2 will also broadcast programmes based on our research.

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Slovenia accuses Finnish journalist

Several European journalists are fought by legal means these months: Recently a German MEP used lawyers against several journalists, writes German journalism magazine Message.

Now Slovenia brings a criminal case against an award-winning Finnish colleague.

Journalist Magnus Berglund of Finnish broadcaster YLE faces up to six months in prison in Slovenia, if found guilty in a case about ‘criminal defamation’ brought by Slovenia, according to several sources, most recently the International Press Institute.

“The charges are linked to an aired MOT story about a suspected bribery case involving defence materiel manufacturer Patria and top Slovenian officials,” writes broadcaster YLE in a press release.

The documentary, which was broadcast last autumn in YLE programme MOT, claimed that “defence material manufacturer Patria bribed Slovenian officials, including Prime Minister Janez Jansa, to the tune of 21 million euro in order to secure orders worth millions of euro. Jansa has denied any wrongdoing in the deal,” according to the YLE press release in English language. The English transcript of the documentary is published on the YLE site.

Berglund as well as MOT’s producer Matti Virtanen continue to stand by the work done on the report. Finnish police have followed leads in the case to Slovenia as well as Austria.

Berglund will avoid to travel to Slovenia anytime soon, he says. “They would probably arrest me as soon as I set foot in the country. Fortunately, Finland doesn’t plan to send me there for questioning.”

The International Press Institute explains, that according to Slovenian law government and other officials can claim “criminal defamation”, whereas other citizens are referred to civil law.

“The Slovenian authorities should drop this case immediately as it flies in the face of law at the European level regarding freedom of expression. The European Court of Human Rights has consistently stated that politicians must expect greater criticism than average citizens, and yet the law prosecuting Berglund was plainly created to enable politicians to evade or escape criticism,” said IPI Director David Dadge in the IPI press release of July 31st on the case.

The documentary “Truth about Patria” was broadcast on September 1st 2008 only weeks before an election in Slovenia, which brought victory to Jansa’s opponent.

Read also Slovenian journalist Blaz Zgaga’s comment in the Guardian on the Berglund case and not least on the situation for journalists in Slovenia.

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