By John Ensor •
Published: 02 Nov 2023 • 12:35
One of the farms under investigation.
Authorities in Spain have uncovered a fraudulent scheme involving 30 people in a scam which swindled nearly €1 million in European Union subsidies.
A report from Spain’s Ministry of the Interior revealed that in June 2022, a scam was uncovered that involved the exploitation of subsidies from the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
A total of 30 individuals are under investigation by the Guardia Civil, in a case now known as the ‘Pacquiao’ operation. The plot allegedly involves personnel who work within the Junta de Castilla and Leon’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Rural Development.
The purpose of the European Union’s CAP is to sustain farmers’ incomes, ensuring the viability of agriculture and the availability of safe food. These subsidies, which require specific land use and activities, have been manipulated, centring around the grazing of livestock intended for human consumption on pastures in Palencia province.
Each farmer involved in the scam was set to pocket about €45,000 each year, pretending to pasture animals that in actual fact remained on intensive farms.
Further, it was found that pastures receiving CAP subsidies were also unlawfully reassigned to farmers in southern Spain, resulting in dual illegal profits.
The operation’s ringleader is identified as the head of the Regional Agrarian Section, who, along with a close-knit group including his veterinarian partner and brother, orchestrated the fraudulent practices.
They went so far as issuing fake certificates and bypassing mandatory inspections, and built up a network within the livestock defence association to recruit complicit farmers.
The financial gain from the scam is estimated to be around €1 million. A judicial inventory of 96 properties worth over €4 million has been seized in order to reimburse the illegally obtained grants.
The accused face charges for subsidy fraud, administrative prevarication, document forgery, and fraud. The irregularities span across several provinces, marking a significant breach in the subsidy system.
This case marks the first collaboration between a SEPRONA unit and the European Prosecutor’s Office, with assistance from Palencia’s Organic Unit of the Judicial Police, highlighting the increasing vigilance against subsidy fraud.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
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