The curious case of the cow that got paid on the double

Auditors have been visiting farms across the EU
Auditors have been visiting farms across the EU

A curious case of Polish heifer fraud caught the eye of EU auditors poring over the bloc's 2017 accounts.

While EU spending errors were on the decline last year - down to 2.4pc of all payments, from 3.1pc in 2016, according to auditors - there were still some who tried to beat the system.

One Polish farming family was able to claim double the amount of aid they were entitled to by selling and ­repurchasing the same dairy cows.

Father and son, who kept their herds in the same cowshed, both claimed the same amount of rural development aid for "breeding value and competitiveness".

"There was no physical transfer of ­animals, and the total number of ­animals owned by the beneficiary and his father remained unchanged," a court said in its report, declaring the money invalid.

And a farmer in the Italian region of Veneto received money for agreeing to plant catch crops, reduce chemical fertilisers and keep irrigation registers. A visit by EU auditors "found that the beneficiary had not complied with any of these commitments", and the bloc decided to claw back the aid.

The highest error rates were found in aid for rural development, market measures and climate change, while direct payments were relatively free from fraud.

Ireland is a net contributor to the EU budget, receiving €1.8bn in 2017 and paying in just over €2bn.

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