Every year, more than 3400 billion euro worth of products are imported or exported in the European Union (EU), accounting for 15% of global trade. Import duties on these items alone make up more than 10% of the EU budget - a valuable source of revenue. In recent years, authorities have stepped up their joint efforts to efficiently counter customs fraud and to ensure that this income is not diverted into the pockets of fraudsters. The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and the Belgian Administration of Customs and Excise held a joint press conference of 7 December in Brussels to present the results of their joint efforts in recent, large, cross-border customs fraud investigations.
The joint cooperation between the two agencies meant that investigators were able to share operational information that led to the seizure of at least 140,000 counterfeit cigarettes, a string of arrests, the discovery of illegal warehouses and the dismantling of a criminal network involved in the trafficking of counterfeits from China into the EU. Similarly, in a case involving the evasion of anti-dumping duties on biodiesel, OLAF and Belgian Customs uncovered a fraud scheme that led to the recovery of 21,882,171 euro evaded duties, as well as prevented further harm done to EU revenue. The successful results obtained in these cases were only possible through the mutual operational support of the two partners.
At the opening of the press conference, OLAF Director-General, Giovanni Kessler said: “The role of customs is evolving to match an ever-growing, fast-paced market. We need modern, interconnected customs to work with a European approach and ensure a clean, fair, safe and secure market place, to the benefit of citizens and law-abiding companies.”
“It is through joint partnerships such as the one presented today that we will succeed in dismantling criminal networks and protecting much-needed revenue that can be used to fuel economic growth and job creation,” he added.
Customs and Excise Director-General Kristian Vanderwaeren, noted that “It is also important to see and understand that the fraud landscape has changed a lot during the years and will continue to evolve with business trends, enhancements in technology and most importantly, to stay ahead of ever changing criminal operations. Governments, organizations and enforcement agencies need to constantly evolve and adapt to stay ahead of the fraudsters. The partnership between OLAF and the General Administration of Customs and Excise helps us constantly reinvent ourselves and stay ahead of the curve.“
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