No health risks to smokers but three million Euros in damages to European taxpayers
were caused by a large-scale fraud with
fictitious tobacco. A scheme involving
the claim of EC agricultural subsidies
for over 900,000 kg of non-existing raw
tobacco has been discovered by the Italian
Carabinieri police force with the support
of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).
There are currently 80 individuals under
investigation by the Italian judicial authorities
in the context of this operation named
“Ghost Tobacco”. The illegally claimed
Community funds are to be recovered and
administrative fines of around 20 million
Euros have been imposed.
According to the Carabinieri’s findings producers,
processors and transport companies alike
were involved in this attempt against the
EC’s agricultural funds. OLAF contributed
to the detection of the Italian-based fraud
scheme that extended over several countries
by carrying out on-the-spot checks in Luxembourg,
the Netherlands, France, Austria and Romania.
The Carabinieri, over the last ten months,
carried out searches, observations and other
activities concerning the economic operators
involved in Italy. The case lies with the
public prosecutor’s office (Procura della
Repubblica) in Perugia.
Two main fraud schemes were discovered: In
the first one, shipments to foreign companies
were feigned in order to conceal the non-existence
of the raw tobacco from the Italian control
bodies and to evade paying value added tax.
In the second scheme “tobacco carousels”
were created, producer A taking tobacco to
the processor who returned it to producer
B who, again, brought the same tobacco to
the processor and so on. EC funds were illegally
claimed for all transactions.
Alessandro Butticé Head of Spokesman, Communication and PRUnit
Tel : +32 (0)2 296.54.25
Fax : +32 (0)2 299.81.01 E-mail OLAF on YouTube