The European Union Bulletin has obtained a copy in French of a report summing up the findings of investigations conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) on the European Union’s humanitarian assistance to the Polisario-controlled refugee camps in Southern Algeria.
The report drafted by OLAF investigation team asserts that large parts of the assistance and aid were diverted by Algerian senior officials and leaders of the Polisario Front.
This liberation movement is claiming the independence of Western Sahara and asks for a self-determination referendum for the people of the former Spanish colony annexed by Morocco in 1975. After 15 years of guerilla war between Polisario fighters, backed by Algeria and Gadhafi regime, and the Moroccan army, a ceasefire was established in 1991 and a UN Peace-keeping mission MINURSO has been deployed.
The EU has been extending financial support to the Tindouf camps since 1975, and according to the OLAF report, the donations of the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO) to the Tindouf camps refugees between 1994 and 2004 amounted to € 105 million on the basis of a 155.000 strong population, as estimated by Algerian authorities. “Neither Algeria nor the Polisario Front agreed that a census of the camps population be conducted,” said OLAF.
“OLAF investigations enabled to collect several concurrent testimonies between 2003 and 2006 affirming that the diversions were operated by and to the benefit of some Polisario leaders who were frequently mentioned by various interviewed people”.
The number of diversions reported, the various testimonies as to the persons having benefitted from the frauds, the modus operandi used and the duration of the diversions “do not leave any doubt that the organized fraudulent manoeuvers took place during a long period,” says the report which also mentions the existence of “secret warehouses.”
ECHO discovered its products being sold in the markets of Bechar in Algeria, located at 800 km from Tindouf, as well as in Nouakchott, Chingetti and Nema, three Mauritanian cities. Between the end of 2001 and April 2003, ECHO teams discovered several tons of products being sold in 12 different spots. The report confirmed that “Donated medical equipment was sold in Tindouf and in Algiers”. It is also noted in the report that “Spare parts for water tanks were ordered many times within the same year and resold elsewhere”
The report also accused Polisario leaders of “submitting false invoices and overestimated virtual projects to various donor ONGs”
Algerian Secret services (DRS) were also stated in the report as part of the diversion machine. DRS Officers “have setup outlets, kind of grocery shops, in the camps to sell the humanitarian assistance to the population. This is an indirect way to recover all the money circulating in the camps especially wages and pensions paid by the Spanish Government to Sahrawi Retirees”
To download the full report, click here