The EU's anti-fraud office (OLAF) has opened an investigation into outgoing European Union Directorate-General (DG) for Mobility and Transport Henrik Hololei, in relation to an alleged conflict of interest over multiple flights he took which were paid for by the Qatari state or its agencies, news portal Politico reports.
Hololei resigned earlier this week in the wake of a trail of articles on the issue, published by Politico through the month of March.
Hololei had not broken any European Commission rules in accepting the flights, at a time when he and his team were involved in major aviation deal talks with Qatar, though since he was responsible for judging whether taking the flights represented a conflict of interest or not, the ensuing controversy has prompted the Commission to change its regulations.
Now, OLAF says it has opened an investigation into the matter, adding via its press office that this: "Does not mean that the persons/entities involved have committed an irregularity/fraud."
OLAF is the EU's budget fraud and misconduct investigatory board, in respect of all the EU's institutions, though it can neither bring criminal charges nor making binding recommendations itself.
The Commission is also continuing to investigate the Hololei flights, Politico says.
Hololei will not be leaving the Commission, following his resignation from its transport department, but instead will transfer to another department, which deals with international partnerships.
He will also retain the same salary, an EU official told Politico.
The flights were made in the years 2015-2021 during the Open Skies negotiations, while the revelations became public less than three months after the "Qatar-gate" corruption scandal broke.
This engulfed several leading European Parliament members, and coincided with Qatar's hosting of the FIFA World Cup in November-December 2022.
Hololei's EU career predates Estonia becoming a full member of the union, which it did in 2004. He was involved in integration preparation work, from the mid-1990s onwards.
Editor: Andrew Whyte