Fausto Luchetti, Former executive director of the International Olive Council (IOC): 'I never imagined that my relationship with the IOC would end with such a despicable treatment against me'

Fausto Luchetti, Former executive director of the International Olive Council (IOC): "I never imagined that my relationship with the IOC would end with such a despicable treatment against me"

Mercacei Magazine received Fausto Luchetti, Executive Director of the International Olive Oil Council (IOC) between 1987 and 2002, to analyze the long judicial process carried out against him and several of his collaborators for suspected irregularities established in the management of this organization, as well as to speak about his achievements while he was in charge of this organization. Acquitted of fraud and misappropriation charges, Luchetti defends the activities he developed in the IOC and underlines, according to the motivations of the judgment of acquittal, that the judicial process, whose instruction has lasted for 13 years, has been based on "falsehoods, conjectures, hypotheses, and speculations without any evidence," and has meant an important moral damage to him. We publish excerpts from the exclusive interview published in the recently launched Mercacei Magazine 92.

In charge of the IOC, you encouraged this Institution to play a decisive role in the development of the quality and consumption of olive oil around the world. Do you consider that the IOC continues working in that vein?
I am very sorry that these type of activities have been abandoned. Scientific research has been fundamental to support the information and education that we promoted from the IOC directed to potential consumers about the nutritional properties of olive oil.

I believe that the current market benefits from the scientific research that was carried out at that time in which we had an extraordinary team led by the professor and researcher Francisco Grande Covián, coordinator of the group of scientists that examined all the proposals of our researchers.

I can tell you the achievements that we acomplished then; today's figures don't seem very distant from those I left in 2002. For instance: the private storage mechanism, which was activated against a serious market disturbance, didn't solve the problem, but delayed it and it also costed the European Union about 35 million euros per 100,000 tons during a year, while exporting 240,000 more tons each year allowed Brussels to save 85 million euros compared to the five million destined to promotion.

Franco Milano, the Deputy Director-General for Agriculture of the European Commission and President of the IOC between 2000 and 2001, sent a letter to Franz Fischler, the Agriculture Commissioner at the time, underlining that during this period he had been able to see how the labor of the IOC, led by Fausto Luchetti, had allowed the organization to acquire an image of international prestige and that its activity favored Brussels to save a very significant amount of money due to the increase in exports.

Expanding the market, improving the image of quality, research and setting rules for product marketing have been crucial to obtain these results that speak for themselves.

Later, technical cooperation has been maintained, but promotion has been drastically reduced and effectiveness is not evident.

When did you stop being the Executive Director of this Organization? Which were the reasons and circumstances for the European Commission to claim for your presence in Brussels?
While that letter was being sent in 2001 to Commissioner Fischler, some senior Commission officials had placed me under audit and were already looking for a pretext for me to leave. It all started when the powerful lobby of the oilseeds began to show discomfort for the promotion of olive oil that were carrying out in the sector. In fact, the Danish Minister for Agriculture commissioned a study to demonstrate that rapeseed oil was just as good as olive oil, but also much cheaper.

On December 19, 2002, IOC members met at an extraordinary Council session and forced me to resign due to suspected irregularities in the management of this organization, as a result of an audit carried out within the organization. Everything happened very hastily; Things had changed radically. I knew that audits had been carried out and that they were looking for a reason for me to leave my position at the International Olive Council. In fact, Brussels controlled the agency's accounts annually, in particular three or four times a year, so I was safe and calm, since I was the first interested in the accounts being in order to continue with our promotional activities.

However, I soon understood that the climate had changed and from Brussels they demanded my reintegration and informed me that it was no longer appropriate to contribute with extra money to the IOC because everything that had been carried out was very effective and sufficient. The issue had passed into the hands of the northern EU countries and was now supported by the powerful lobby of oilseeds.

Almost two years later, the IOC filed a complaint for suspected irregularities in the management of the agency's budget.

When and why did the Judicial Process begin?
The judicial process began in 2004 and the minutes were sent to the Spanish justice system, which decided to open a procedure against me, specifically to the Public Prosecutor, who earlier that year called me and transferred the dossier to the investigating judge, who began the proceedings. The investigating judge, after 13 years of investigation, removed a whole series of accusations about the management of the IOC's budgets, and concluded by limiting the accusation to my house, since I benefited from a grant -which Brussels asked for in 1991-, and to my airline tickets; I had the right to travel in first class and they said that I was traveling as a tourist to profit from the difference in price between the two tickets. These were unsubstantiated, and therefore false, statements without any evidence. On the contrary, I presented, as I have preserved them, my first-class boarding passes for all the intercontinental flights I took those days.

In addition, I had a good salary equivalent to that which had the Officials in the Commission, as established in the Community Statute for Officials seconded in the interests of the service.

Finally, we get to the Tribunal of the Provincial Court of Madrid, which concluded that the classification of the facts, formulated by the IOC's private accusation, was based on mere suspicions or conjectures, without having established and demonstrated typical criminal behavior, having constituted an entire story of alleged irregularities based on mere presumptions. The whole process has been based on false accusations, conjectures, hypotheses and speculations without any evidence. In fact, at first I did not want a lawyer because I knew I didn't have to defend myself against anything.

They were desperate to find a real reason and accused me generically of mismanagement. I have been very angry at these baseless accusations. In addition, such an undue delay has never been seen in a proceeding like this one.

This process has caused me a significant moral damage, with important material costs. I never imagined that my relationship with the IOC would end with such a despicable treatment against me.

You can read the complete interview in Mercacei Magazine #92, as well as a fantastic article on EVOO-bloggers, all the innovations presented at Expoliva, as well as a review of the International Awards regarding Olive Oil and all of the news of the sector.

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