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Brussels, 07 July 2010
Chinese garlic smugglers intercepted
A lorry containing 28 tonnes of smuggled fresh garlic has been intercepted in Sweden. This is the result of close cooperation between the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and Norwegian and Swedish customs. Since 2009, approximately 1 200 tonnes of Chinese garlic, with an estimated value of 1.5 million euros in terms of customs' duties, had been smuggled into the EU via Norway by an international group of smugglers.
"The interception of the lorry was the result of a carefully prepared initiative coordinated by OLAF", said Ian Walton, Director of Investigations and Operations II. "This action came about due to the excellent cooperation provided by Norwegian and Swedish customs. It is a prime example of OLAF's ability to assist Member States, at an operational level, in fighting fraud and protecting the European taxpayers' money".
Import of fresh Chinese garlic to the EU is subject to a 9.6% ad valorem duty and, a specific amount of 1 200 euros per tonne (net weight). This specific amount is not applicable to imports within an annual quota of 58 870 tonnes worldwide (33 700 tonnes for China). Furthermore, within the framework of preferential trade arrangements, fresh garlic may be imported duty-free and without quantitative restrictions, on condition that the goods originate from those countries for which the EU provides preferential treatment. As the production capacity for garlic in China is very high and production costs are low, the illegal import of fresh garlic, under evasion of the levy, is an attractive business for smugglers.
In May 2010, OLAF opened an investigation regarding the alleged smuggling of Chinese fresh garlic into the EU via Norway. As a result of close cooperation between OLAF and customs' services in Norway and Sweden, a full truck-load (containing 28 tonnes) of garlic was intercepted on 18 June 2010 in Sweden. As the driver was crossing the border between Norway and Sweden, without a declared consignment, he was arrested and the garlic and truck seized.
The garlic was first imported from China to Norway by ship - in Norway garlic is exempt from customs' duties and only VAT need be paid. Following customs clearance in Oslo, the garlic was smuggled by truck into the EU (instead of being put on the market in Norway).