A COLLEGE for international crime-fighters near Hook is improving, its boss claims.

The European Police College (Cepol) has been based at Bramshill House, in Mansion Drive, near Hook, since 2006, helping police officers from across Europe share good practice in combating cross-border crime.

But it has been criticised in recent years when the EU refused to sign off its accounts, because of concerns over spending – most notoriously on furniture and mobile phones for private use.

Ferenc Banfi, director of Cepol, came to Hampshire in February last year, having previously trained police officers to tackle gun-running and organised crime on the EU’s border with Moldova and Ukraine, and in the Balkan states.

The tough Hungarian invited The Gazette to the college for a tour, although some areas were off-limits. He said: “At first look, it was Mission Impossible, and though I am not Tom Cruise I was in a position to find a way and fulfil this job.

“I believe we have addressed the majority of errors, and I believe enough to say Cepol is largely repaired and operational.”

The 54-year-old said he was surprised by some of the practices which had gone on before he arrived.

This included buying £14,000 worth of furniture from Ikea for Cepol staff who lived on site. Then when the criticism flared up among European MPs, it was quickly sold off for £500 at auction.

Other misdemeanours included allowing staff to use Cepol cars for personal trips of up to 20 miles from Bramshill House and not putting out to tender a contract for taxi use.

Mr Banfi said he has acted to improve Cepol, by selling all but one of its cars, letting a taxi contract and making improvements to its human resources department.

At its Bramshill base, Cepol employs 37 staff, while, on the Continent, scores more handle Cepol’s exchange programme for police officers at other centres.

The college uses two buildings on the Bramshill site, which is also home to the National Policing Improvement Agency, which is a separate institution.

Detectives stay for, on average, between three and six months to learn about the latest trends and |techniques, including for-ensic developments. Mr Banfi said Cepol has always performed well in training officers, and is important in sharing techniques in fighting terrorism, illegal immigration, human trafficking and organised crime.