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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 July, 2003, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Prodi to face EU fraud grilling
By Patrick Bartlett
BBC Europe correspondent

Diemut Theato (EU budgetary control chairman) and Neil Kinnock
Neil Kinnock (right) has ordered an inquiry into other departments
The European Commission president, Romano Prodi, has been summoned by the European parliament to answer questions on a growing fraud scandal in the EU's executive.

It is part of a widening inquiry into allegations of secret bank accounts and fictitious contracts at the EU's statistical office, Eurostat.

The European Commission's most senior officials are being sent a fraud questionnaire to assess the extent of the problem.

The Commission says it knew nothing about the alleged fraud until May, when newspapers published details of a vast enterprise of looting uncovered by investigators.

Since then three top directors at Eurostat have been suspended pending disciplinary proceedings.

'Zero tolerance'

The EU's administrative commissioner, Neil Kinnock, has revealed that up until 1999 there was a relatively extensive practice of setting up secret and illegal bank accounts.

Millions of euros are thought to have disappeared.

Mr Kinnock told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday there was evidence this "utterly reprehensible" practice was continuing.

As a result, he has ordered an immediate inquiry into other Commission departments.

That admission has prompted the European parliament to call the Commission president, Romano Prodi, for questioning.

Mr Prodi came to office following the mass resignation of the previous commission in 1999 amid allegations of financial misconduct.

At the time, Mr Prodi promised "zero tolerance" towards fraud.

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