Former EIB president Werner Hoyer under EU corruption investigation

Two-term leader of multilateral lender describes probe as ‘absurd and unfounded’

Werner Hoyer, former president of the European Investment Bank. Photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Werner Hoyer, the European Investment Bank’s (EIB) former president, is under investigation for corruption, abuse of influence and misappropriation of European Union (EU) funds, allegations he described as “absurd and unfounded”.

The probe relating to Hoyer, 72, a German economist and former junior minister who led the EU’s bank for a dozen years, is being led by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), which polices the misuse of EU funds.

The EIB is the EU’s lending arm and the largest multilateral development lender in the world, with a firepower of more than €500 billion.

During his two-term stint at the bank, Mr Hoyer played a critical role in recasting its operations towards a more green agenda, while parrying calls for it to take on more risk. He was succeeded by Nadia Calviño, a former Spanish vice-premier, in December at the end of his second term.


In response to questions, Mr Hoyer said: “The allegations against me are downright absurd and unfounded. I now expect them to be fully investigated and clarified and ask the EIB to co-operate fully with the EPPO. I am also co-operating fully with the EPPO and demand a full clarification of the facts from there.”

The case is one of the most high-profile launched by the EPPO, which like the EIB is based in Luxembourg, since it started operations in 2021.

The prosecutor’s office on Monday announced the EIB had lifted the immunity of two former employees so they could be investigated by the EPPO for suspected corruption, abuse of influence and misappropriation of EU funds.

Mr Hoyer’s lawyer Nikolaos Gazeas said the former president had “expressly requested that his immunity . . . be waived”.

Mr Gazeas said the subject of the investigation was the compensation paid to a departing EIB employee, an agreement signed by the EIB president.

“From a legal perspective, you have to know that the legal requirements for starting a criminal investigation by the EPPO is very low,” Mr Gazeas said.

“It is therefore not unusual in legal terms for the signatory of an agreement to also become a subject in an investigation. My client was never involved in the negotiations surrounding the employee’s departure.”

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EU officials are granted immunity from legal proceedings unless it is lifted by the management of the institution.

Ms Calviño has informed the bank’s management committee that the EPPO was looking into her predecessor, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

Steering the bank through the aftermath of the Eurozone debt crisis, Hoyer positioned it as the world’s greenest multilateral bank by pledging to phase out fossil fuel lending and direct more funding to climate action. Hoyer once described the EIB as growing “more or less undetected in the woods of Luxembourg” over the past six decades.

“I am sometimes surprised that political leaders are not aware what kind of instrument they have in their hands,” he said in 2019. “It’s a political instrument. It serves a political purpose.”

He fiercely guarded the lender’s top credit rating and was reluctant to commit the EIB’s full financial firepower in response to crises ranging from Covid-19 to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A bank spokesperson declined to comment on whether Hoyer was one of the people under investigation, adding that the EIB would “co-operate fully with the European Public Prosecutor’s Office on this matter as required”.

The EIB will also allow the prosecutor to search its premises and archives in Luxembourg, the EPPO said.

Lifting the two former employees’ immunity “will make it possible to gather all the evidence needed, whether inculpatory or exculpatory, to shed full light on the facts under investigation”, the EPPO added. - Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024