26 March 2015
On Tuesday 24 March, in a case registered by the Italian National Desk at Eurojust, an action day involving the law enforcement and prosecution authorities of six Member States and supported by Eurojust and Europol targeted several organised crime groups (OCGs) suspected of excise fraud. Millions of euro were recovered. Eight suspects were arrested, 61 searches and seizures carried out, and 43 freezing orders executed, covering 21 properties totalling EUR 1 653 927, company shares totalling EUR 756 802, a large quantity of jewellery, and bank deposits and life insurance totalling EUR 458 438. Preliminary information acquired in the course of the action day showed evasion of excise duties totalling more than EUR 15 million.
OPERATION STURM OIL resulted from a large-scale Italian operation carried out by the Public Prosecution Office in Rome and the Guardia di Finanza against an OCG involved in massive carousel fraud of excise duties. The investigated OCG was found to be mixing diesel fuel with additives to disguise the real nature of the product and avoid excise.
The oil, purchased in Germany and allegedly transported to Malta and Greece, was instead stockpiled and sold on the black market in Italy through a sophisticated network of buyers. A complex network of companies provided false invoices and bogus transport documents, while several associates in various Member States provided logistical support and transportation facilities.
Representatives of the national authorities of Italy, the UK, Romania, Germany, Malta and the Czech Republic, worked closely with Eurojust at its coordination centre in The Hague, at which Europol deployed a mobile office and Eurojust’s Case Analysis Unit provided real-time analytical and operational assistance.
The action day set a milestone in the fight against carousel fraud, not only for the excellent operational results of the coordinated action across six Member States, but also because criminals have been deprived of money and property to compensate for the economic losses suffered by Italy due to the fraud.
Ms Teresa-Angela Camelio, chair of the coordination centre and Assistant to the National Member for Italy, commented: ‘Eurojust’s assistance was instrumental in the successful conclusion of this case. The challenges presented by the legal systems of the six Member States involved were overcome through the sharing of information, a task in which Eurojust excels. It’s essential to emphasise the coordination work carried out by Eurojust and the excellent results achieved.’
Excise fraud. Excise fraud is often cross-border in nature, involving Member States and third countries alike. It is a high impact crime, perpetrated by sophisticated OCGs who abuse customs procedures to avoid billions of euros in excise duties. Some of the major issues that have been highlighted as barriers in the fight against cross-border excise fraud are: differences in national excise legislation; weaknesses in EU excise control and inspection systems; and corruption. The successful investigation and prosecution of cross-border excise fraud requires a multi-disciplinary approach including coordination between Eurojust, Europol and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). For further information on carousel and acquisition fraud, see Eurojust News.
For interviews and further information, please contact:
Head of Communications and External Relations
Press & PR Service
Tel: +31 70 412 5508
For all Eurojust press releases, please see www.eurojust.europa.eu (Press centre)
Europol Corporate Communications
Tel: +31 70 302 5001