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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 October 2006, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
No payout for EU 'fraud' reporter
Hans-Martin Tillack
Mr Tillack denies bribing an Olaf official
A European Union court has rejected a claim for damages from a journalist who says he has been persecuted by the EU anti-fraud office, Olaf.

Hans-Martin Tillack was arrested by Belgian police and his files were seized after he exposed wrongdoing at the EU statistics agency, Eurostat.

He claimed damages from the European Commission, arguing that Olaf had triggered the Belgian police action.

But the court said there was no "causal link" between Olaf and his arrest.

Bribery allegation

Mr Tillack wrote two articles for Stern magazine in 2002 on alleged fraud at Eurostat, where large amounts of money were siphoned off into secret bank accounts.

It's astonishing that the court allows an EU institution to present rumours as facts
Hans-Martin Tillack
Olaf then publicly accused "a journalist" of bribing one of its officials to obtain an internal memo.

It passed information to the authorities in Belgium and Germany, which led to Mr Tillack's arrest.

However, the EU's Court of First Instance ruled there was "not a sufficiently direct causal link between the forwarding of the information by Olaf to the Belgian judicial authorities and the damage claimed".

Mr Tillack denied paying for the Olaf memo, and accused Olaf of making the bribery allegation on the basis of rumour.

He took the case to the European Ombudsman, Nikiforos Diamandouros, who agreed that Olaf had made the allegation without a factual basis, and said this constituted a case of maladministration.

'Licence to lie'

Mr Tillack's lawyer, Ian Forrester, told the court that the raid on his client's home and office was a form of "retaliation" by Olaf, which was angered that its failure to deal with the Eurostat scandal had been detailed in Stern.

Mr Tillack told EUobserver.com that the ruling was a "licence for Olaf to lie".

"It's astonishing that the court allows an EU institution to present rumours as facts. This is damaging to journalists' rights and to the rights of European citizens as well," he said.

Olaf has still not established which member of its staff provided Mr Tillack with the information he used for his reports.

"Mr Tillack wanted by his complaint to the court to make sure we cannot ever look at the documents seized. But he lost the case," said an Olaf spokesman, Jorg Wojahn.

Mr Tillack is also bringing a case before the European Court of Human Rights.

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