OLAF and Chinese authorities join forces to fight cigarette smuggling from Asia
OLAF /11/18 Beijing, 16 December 2011
EU-China cigarette conference in Beijing 14-16 December
Operational cooperation was the focus of the cigarette smuggling conference which ended today in Beijing. It was hosted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and attended by the Chinese authorities involved in controls and investigations into the manufacturing and smuggling of cigarettes. The conference resulted in the establishment of direct contacts between OLAF and regional Chinese authorities in key trade regions and discussions about EU-Chinese cooperation in large-scale international cigarette smuggling cases.
"The considerable increase in counterfeit cigarettes entering the EU black market from China and other Asian countries in recent years requires closer international cooperation. From China alone, we have seized one billion cigarettes in the last 18 months. The Chinese customs Anti-smuggling Bureau has proven to be an important partner by providing information that has led to significant seizures in the EU. We intend to further develop our good cooperation,” said OLAF Director-General Giovanni Kessler.
The conference in Beijing is part of a wider effort to enhance cooperation between OLAF and the Chinese authorities. Earlier this month, Mr Kessler met with Professor Cao Jianming, the Prosecutor-General of the Supreme People's Procuratorate.
The Chinese authorities attending the conference were the police (Ministry of Public Security), customs, State Tobacco Monopoly Administration and Ministry of Justice. These authorities all have competence in the area of controls and investigations into the manufacturing and smuggling of counterfeit cigarettes.
The illicit tobacco trade costs EU taxpayers an estimated €10 billion each year. Therefore, the European Commission and OLAF have decided to step up their efforts against smuggling. In June this year, the Commission introduced an action plan to be implemented together with Member States and Eastern neighbours to tackle cigarette and alcohol smuggling along the EU’s Eastern border. It proposes targeted actions, including the strengthening of capacities on both sides of the border, and the setting up of trained mobile units and new equipment alongside the border such as automated recognition tools, scanners and night vision. There is also the need to review the way customs penalties currently apply throughout the EU, and to enhance international cooperation, in particular with EU Eastern neighbours.
The mission of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is threefold: it protects the financial interests of the European Union by combating fraud, corruption and any other illegal activities; it protects the reputation of the European Institutions by investigating serious misconduct by their staff that could result in disciplinary proceedings; and it supports the European Commission in the development and implementation of fraud prevention and detection policies.
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