Nature magazine–not exactly on the top of the sales rack even at Barnes & Noble (I subscribe)–last week reported a bizarre story that is receiving no attention in the U.S. media that I’ve seen: The Eurocrats in Brussels have uncovered a massive organized crime effort that secured $72 million in fraudulent scientific research grants. An excerpt:
The fraud has been conducted in a “highly sophisticated manner, resembling money laundering”, by means of a cross-border network of fictitious companies and subcontractors, says Pavel Bořkovec, a spokesman for OLAF. Several project coordinators stand accused of having claimed inflated costs, or expenses for non-existent research activities and services, he says.
“The projects were apparently organized with the sole intention to deceive the commission and its control mechanisms,” says Boublil. To make them seem legitimate, grant applications included the names of real scientists, established research institutes and existing companies, he says. But in most cases the alleged project partners were included without their knowing.
The strange part of this story is that it offers no details about what specific areas of government research funding were pilfered, or what “results” may have come of the fraudulent research projects they supported. Could it have been in the climate science domain, where the most government research money seems to be sloshing around? We know that there has been organized fraud in the European carbon trading market. Trading had to be halted back in January when it was discovered that millions of dollars of carbon allowances had been stolen and cashed on the spot market, so this wouldn’t be the first time that organized crime had fixed on the climate circus as an easy mark. And one of the overlooked e-mails in the “Climategate” scandal involving the East Anglia University Climate Research Unit two years ago was a message from one of the scientists suggesting that a particular grant be routed through a Russian organization as a means of tax evasion.
Seems like this story needs some follow up.