The first joint customs operation along the EU Eastern border seizes one million smuggled cigarettes

Posted on February 27, 2012

The final results of the first operation targeting rail traffic along the EU Eastern border made by twenty-four Member States, Croatia, Turkey, Norway and Switzerland ended with around 1.2 million cigarettes seized. The exchange of information was easier during the operation called “Operation Barrel”, because of the setting up in OLAF’s headquarters of an operational coordination centre with contact persons from the Member States, third countries and Europol.

The “Operation Barrel”, the first joint customs operation targeting rail traffic along the EU Eastern border, ended with the seize of around 1.2 million cigarettes smuggled. Twenty-four Member States, Croatia, Turkey, Norway and Switzerland participated in the operation which was organised by the Polish Customs Service in close cooperation with the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). The cigarettes seized during the operation were found on freight trains carrying wood and iron. They represent losses of at least one quarter of a million euros in terms of evaded customs duties and taxes.

The European Commission estimates that smuggling of tobacco products costs the EU and Member States approximately €10 billion in revenue losses every year. Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner for taxation, customs and anti-fraud, underlined that customs checks at the EU border are key to protecting taxpayers’ money and legitimate businesses. The Commission’s recently adopted its Anti-Fraud Strategy which includes an Action Plan to fight against smuggling of cigarettes and alcohol.

Additionally, the customs authorities of EU Member States as well as some non-EU countries, in cooperation with OLAF, carry out regular joint customs operations with specific checks at European level. These coordinated operations target actions of a limited duration to combat the smuggling of sensitive goods and fraud in certain high-risk areas and/or on identified trade routes.

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