OLAF /06/21 Brussels, 4 December 2006
Today, the German customs authorities announced the recovery of € 7 million in evaded import duties for illegally imported energy saving lamps. This success of the European Anti-Fraud Office’s (OLAF) partner service in Germany, the Zollkriminalamt, is part of the EU-wide investigation of the illegal trade in these products originating from China. It is estimated that up to €50 Million Euros financial damage has been caused to the EU-taxpayer by those cases of the illegal import of energy saving lamps investigated by OLAF.
Energy saving lamps originating in China are liable to the payment of anti-dumping duties (ADD) on importation into the EU – the current rate of ADD is up to 66.1%. Evasion of this duty is therefore financially very attractive for the operators concerned. Importers use a variety of different methods to achieve this objective - methods used to date include the following:-
• The lamps are transhipped through a third country and are reloaded into new containers in order to make this country appear to be the country of origin.
• Chinese producers have created new factories or have cooperated with existing companies to create joint ventures in other third countries for the alleged production of energy saving lamps. In most cases, the lamps are merely assembled or simply transhipped. In either case they remain liable to the payment of the ADD.
• In some cases, Certificates of Origin are simply falsified and in other cases are unduly issued in good faith by the national authorities on the basis of false or misleading information provided by the alleged exporter.
• Energy saving lamps have also been misdeclared to the customs authorities in the Community as normal lamps or the values have been reduced in order to avoid or reduce liability to duty.
Some 13 different countries have allegedly been used for this purpose and OLAF has already carried out investigations concerning this traffic from Vietnam, Pakistan, Thailand and Malaysia and has ongoing investigations concerning the Philippines, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka and Tunisia. The fight against this form of illegal trade goes on in close co-operation with the Member States and third countries concerned in the framework of the relevant legislation in customs matters.
OLAF is continuing to carry out investigations into this illegal trade. Several of these investigations have already led to administrative and criminal proceedings to recover an amount of €30 Million. It should be noted that apart from the evasion of ADD, this type of fraud is also causing damage to the EU energy saving lamp industry in the form of unfair and indeed illegal competition. If not investigated and recovered the loss to the Community budget resulting from this type of fraud would ultimately be borne by the Community taxpayer.