OLAF /11/01 Brussels, 10 January 2011
Six containers containing a total of 144 tonnes of smuggled fresh garlic disguised as onions have been intercepted in Poland. This is the result of close cooperation between the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), Polish police and customs authorities. The financial impact on the EU budget of the garlic seized is 180,000 Euro in terms of customs’ duties - this loss has been prevented. However, the total impact, in terms of evaded customs’ duties for garlic declared as onions using this modus operandi, is estimated at more than 1 million Euros.
"The interception of the two containers was the result of a carefully prepared initiative coordinated by OLAF in close cooperation with the Polish police in Lublin and the Polish customs authorities. Continued close cooperation on the case lead to the interception of a further four containers", said Ian Walton, Director of Investigations and Operations II. "This action came about due to the excellent cooperation provided by Polish police and the Polish customs authorities assisted by the Dutch customs authorities. It is a prime example of OLAF's ability to assist Member States, at an operational level, in fighting fraud and protecting European taxpayers' money".
Imports of fresh Chinese garlic to the EU are subject to a 9.6% ad valorem duty and, an additional specific duty 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 (including 33 700 tonnes from China). In addition, within the framework of preferential trade arrangements, fresh garlic can be imported duty-free and without quantitative restrictions, as long as the goods originate in countries that benefit from preferential treatment. As the production capacity for garlic in China is very high and production costs are low, evading the levy by importing fresh garlic illegally is an attractive business for smugglers.
In December 2010, OLAF opened an investigation into the alleged smuggling of Chinese fresh garlic into the EU. As a result of close cooperation between OLAF and Polish police from Lublin and Polish customs authorities, two full containers (each containing 24 tonnes) of garlic, declared as fresh onions on the accompanying commercial and customs documents, were intercepted on 15 December 2010 in Poland. Following an additional intensive exchange of information between OLAF, Polish police and customs authorities; a further four containers (each containing 24 tonnes) were intercepted on 5 January 2011 by the Polish authorities.
The garlic was initially transported from China to Rotterdam in deep-sea vessels. In Rotterdam the garlic, declared as onions, was transshipped to feeder vessels which transported it on to Poland. After being cleared in Poland as fresh onions on which only the 9.6% ad valorem duty was paid instead of customs duty applicable to fresh garlic (9.6% ad valorem duty and the additional specific duty of 1 200 Euros per tonne (net weight)), the garlic was distributed on the Polish market.
The Polish police authorities have arrested two of the organisers of these fraudulent activities and it is believed that the smuggling organisation is seriously disrupted by this joint initiative. Further investigations are ongoing.
Head of Unit Spokesman,
Communication, Public Relations
European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)
Rue Joseph II, 30 B-1049 Brussels (Belgium)
Phone: +32 2 296 72 00
Fax: +32 2 2998101