Fraud allegations surface at EU office

Fraud allegations surface at EU office

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STRASBOURG, France — The European Commission president vowed Thursday to root out fraud amid allegations that European Union officials siphoned $6 million into secret bank accounts and spent it on travel, lavish dinners in New York and a riding stable.

Addressing a special European Parliament panel, Romano Prodi of Italy distanced himself from the financial irregularities, saying they occurred before he took the helm at the EU head office in 1999.

He was summoned before the parliament's budget control committee and leaders of all political groups in the 626-seat assembly to explain how $6 million in funds at Eurostat — the agency that collects and tracks data for the 15-nation bloc — can be missing. Most of the money apparently was diverted between 1996 and 2001.

"We know much has gone for travel, dinners, horse riding and volleyball," Danish member of parliament Jens-Peter Bonde said.

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