Wednesday, 11 February 2009

At least a dozen dubious entries in the Commission's lobby register

At least twelve organisations registered in the Commission’s lobbying register could be more virtual than real. Here’s the story of how I found out.

It all started when I tried to figure out who on the European Commission’s Register of Interest Representatives spends most on lobbying. It turned out that one registrant stands head and shoulders above the rest. The obscure Fares Bank Ltd, headquartered in London and directed by “Mr Willy Bergher”, reports to have spent an amazing 250 million euro on lobbying the EU institutions in 2008, dwarfing Hill & Knowlton International Belgium (8,143,400 euro in 2007) and Burson Marsteller (6,963,000 EUR in 2007) which take second and third place.

A visit to the website of Fares Bank Ltd got me curious. The site is quite odd in many respects, redirecting visitors to another URL (http://www.ha4a.net/db/faresbank/index.php?lang=english) and prominently announcing that “Fares Bank Ltd is a company registered at the "European Commission" to No. 80756441078-18” – which appears to be somewhat clumsy attempt to lend this ‘bank’ more credibility. Fares Bank's London address coincides with that of a company renting virtual offices.

A whois search showed that the bank’s website is registered by a certain Gennaro Ruggiero from Prato, a city not far from Florence, Italy. Following that trail I discovered a series of inter-related organisations and websites where one cannot help but wonder whether these organisations are real or just imaginary.

As a next step, I checked if some of these other organisations appear in the EC lobbying register. And voilà: no less than twelve registrations linked directly or indirectly to Mr. Ruggiero (see list below).

It is a strange kettle of fish – and I am at a loss to explain what is going on. But I cannot help but wonder how these twelve organisations are registered on what is supposed to be a tool for transparency. Because the Commission does not seriously screen registrations – or at least they do not appear to – citizens visiting the register are left questioning the reliability of the information it contains. The current lack of oversight is a big disappointment for all pro-transparency campaigners.

But my surprises didn’t end at the Commission register. I also found Gennaro Ruggiero and Giuseppe Catapano on the list of registered lobbyists at the European Parliament, representing the Osservatorio Parlamentare Europeo e del Consiglio d'Europa (see list below). Being on the EP register means that these two ‘gentlemen’ have permanent access badges to the European Parliament buildings. It makes one wonder how this could ever happen.

The Ruggiero network on the EC lobbying register


1 comment:

rz said...

Are you suggesting that these guys run a fake company and legitimize it by pointing people to the EU Lobby registration?

I really wonder who actually believed that a voluntary registration database would help in any way.