The European Union’s financial watchdog, the Court of Auditors, has strongly criticised checks to ensure that food products that attract EU export refunds are actually released onto non-EU markets.

The court concluded that there were “many cases involving the presentation of false and invalid proofs of arrival”, allowing food to be sold in the EU, while fraudsters pocketing the subsidies.

It added that controls on proofs offered by third countries, supervisory companies and EU embassies were also riddled with “serious weaknesses”.

By Keith Nuthall, correspondent