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Monday, 13 March, 2000, 17:24 GMT
Kinnock 'can't beat Euro-corruption'

Paul van Buitenen: Felt intimidated after his revelations
By BBC News Online's political correspondent Nick Assinder

The whistleblower who exposed fraud and mismanagement at the heart of the European Commission has spoken of his fears that reforms introduced by vice-president Neil Kinnock may fail to end the "culture of corruption".

The revelations by Paul van Buitenen of cronyism and mismanagement in Brussels led to the resignation of the entire Commission a year ago.

It was the greatest crisis in the commission's history and led to an unprecedented shake-up led by British commissioner Mr Kinnock.


Neil Kinnock: Charged with cleaning up the Commission
But, speaking to BBC News Online, Mr van Buitenen claims the reforms will do little to combat the problem.

He spoke about his fears of Mafia and Masonic infiltration of the Brussels machine.

And he gave an insight into the intimidation he claims to have suffered after being suspended from his job for daring to speak out.

Speaking before the launch of his book, Blowing the Whistle, he said it had been a huge decision for him to finally lift the lid on the can of worms in Brussels.

"I did not realise the full consequences of what would happen. I did not even know the word whistleblower - I did not know this phenomenon existed," he said.

Once he had presented his revelations, the full weight of the commission machine appeared to be turned against him, he said.

Culture not changed

"It was completely strange for me to see the commission tackle me on my personality and my credibility and not on the contents of what was disclosed.

"Sometimes I had difficulty keeping the tears inside when I discovered what machinery was brought against me."

He attacked Mr Kinnock's reforms for simply introducing a new set of rules when action could always have been taken against officials under the old rules.

"Unfortunately Mr Kinnock has not picked this up properly. He has drawn up a nice reform plan which looks right but he does not tackle the people who committed the irregularities. They have been confirmed in their jobs or even promoted."

He said he was afraid the culture of cronyism had not changed as a result.

"I don't think you can change the culture just by introducing a new set of rules. The application of the rules is important."


European Commission: Brought its full weight to bear
Asked about persistent rumours of Mafia involvement in Brussels, he insisted he had no proof and was nervous of making any claims.

"I have heard certain things about Mafia involvement but I am not that big a hero that people think I am.

"There are certain cases that I will not dive into because if I really get physical threats or my family is in danger then I am out. You must know your limits.

"I have seen traces of Masonic involvement and of networks where you don't know what is happening.

"But if I was quoted saying there was Mafia involvement in the commission, first of all I am in serious trouble and secondly I cannot prove it.

"If you ask my personal subjective opinion and I had to put money on it then I would have to say 'yes'. But I cannot prove this."

Fraud in Parliament

Mr van Buitenen also said he believed the fraud and mismanagement extended beyond the commission and into the European parliament.

"It is my personal conviction that in the European parliament the irregularities are at least as serious as in the commission. The difference is the parliament does not have the same sized budget," he said.

He revealed he and his family had felt personally intimidated in the wake of his revelations.

He said his office computer and phone systems were disconnected during his investigations and that people had been watching his house once he was suspended.

"One time I was phoned by a French journalist who asked me if I had guards in front of my house.

"They said there was a big car sitting in front of my house with Euro plates with antennae on the roof and two gorillas sitting in the car just staring at my house. I think it was an attempt to intimidate me. My wife really felt intimidated."

Now he is leaving Brussels for a commission job in Luxembourg where, he insists, he wants to return to a quiet life.

"I am withdrawing as of April 1st, I want to be an anonymous official again. I want to show I can still be loyal, I want to do a normal standard budget management job.

"I want to have a quiet family life and be a husband and a father to my children who still have to do three years at secondary school, and I cannot carry on carrying this on my own."

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