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European Commission - Press release

One million smuggled cigarettes seized in customs operation

Brussels, 27 February 2012 – Around 1.2 million cigarettes were seized in the first joint customs operation targeting rail traffic along the EU Eastern border. Twenty-four EU Member States, Croatia, Turkey, Norway and Switzerland participated in the operation which was organised by the Polish Customs Service in close cooperation with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). The operation took place from 18 to 27 October 2011. The final results of the operation were made public today at the Polish Customs Service in Sopot in Poland. The results could only be made public now not to interfere with further enquiries which had to be performed by the various customs authorities.

“Customs checks at the EU border are key to protecting our taxpayers' money and our legitimate businesses. The Commission and customs authorities in the Member States and in neighbouring countries have to work side by side to combat smuggling and all kinds of customs fraud. I am very happy with the successful results of this operation and strongly encourage more of these joint actions in the future” said Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner for taxation, customs and anti-fraud.

The cigarettes seized during the operation were found on freight trains carrying wood and iron. They represent losses of at least one quarter of a million euros in terms of evaded customs duties and taxes. The European Commission estimates that smuggling of tobacco products costs the EU and Member States approximately 10 billion euros in revenue losses every year.

This customs operation received support from the European Commission’s Directorate General for Taxation and Customs Union (TAXUD), Europol, Frontex and the World Customs Organization. It is one of the activities of the Eastern Border Action Plan which Commissioner Šemeta launched last year to increase the Commission’s efforts to reduce smuggling and customs fraud along the EU Eastern border (see MEMO/11/454).

Background

The customs authorities of EU Member States as well as some non-EU countries, in cooperation with OLAF, carry out regular joint customs operations with specific checks at European level. These coordinated operations target actions of a limited duration to combat the smuggling of sensitive goods and fraud in certain high-risk areas and/or on identified trade routes (e.g. EU Eastern border).

To make the exchange of information easier during the operation called "Operation Barrel", an operational coordination centre with contact persons from the Member States, third countries and Europol was set up in OLAF's premises in Brussels. OLAF’s IT platform allowed for a secure exchange of information and intelligence in real-time between all participants. Incoming operational information was analysed according to a set of predefined risk criteria in order to identify suspicious shipments. This information was then sent to the concerned border control point where the responsible customs authorities were able to conduct a physical control of the goods. The use of EU-funded scanner equipment on the border between Poland and the Ukraine proved also to be a powerful instrument in the detection of smuggled goods.

For more information:

MEMO/12/135

Photos of the operation available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/photo/photoByMediaGroup.cfm?sitelang=en&mgid=598

Video stock shots of the operation are available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I071267

Video clip of the operation is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/videoplayer.cfm?ref=I071353

More information on joint customs perations:

http://ec.europa.eu/anti_fraud/policy/joint-customs-operations/index_en.htm

Homepage of Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta, EU Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-fraud Commissioner:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/semeta/index_en.htm

Contacts :

Emer Traynor (+32 2 292 15 48)

Natasja Bohez Rubiano (+32 2 296 64 70)


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