Crackdown on a Lithuanian criminal network involved in large-scale food fraud and tax evasion


Flags of Lithuania, Estonia, France and Germany, logo of Europol and Eurojust Supported by Eurojust and Europol, judicial and law enforcement authorities in Lithuania, Estonia, France and Germany have dismantled a Lithuanian organised crime group (OCG) that allegedly put millions of expired food products with altered labelling in the market. They are also suspected of large-scale VAT fraud

Eurojust coordinated the joint action that led to the arrest of 24 suspects. Up to 70 searches and inspections of warehouses and other locations were carried out. Over 200 officers were involved on the ground during the action day.

Stored food Active since at least early 2021, the OCG is believed to have purchased millions of expired food products and some other perishable goods, such as cosmetics, in Germany and France. The OCG altered the expiry dates on these products and regularly supplied them to the Lithuanian market, where they were purchased by thousands of consumers.

Initial estimates suggest that the OCG obtained over EUR 1 million through this criminal activity. The suspects allegedly kept fictitious accounting records to hide the real purchase and sale values in order to avoid paying taxes.

In a joint action day on 23 May, 24 suspects were detained in Lithuania. Up to 70 searches and inspections of warehouses and other locations were carried out and over 30 witnesses were interviewed in Estonia, France, Germany and Lithuania. Equipment for altering the expiry dates on products, including household solvents, printers and etiquettes, was found at several locations in Lithuania, as well as large quantities of expired products.

The case was opened in January 2023 at the request of the Lithuanian authorities. Eurojust facilitated the communication, exchange of information and coordination between the national authorities and assisted in the preparation of the joint action day. The Agency also hosted three coordination meetings and set up a coordination centre to enable rapid cooperation between the judicial authorities involved in the operations.

Banknotes on a table
Credits: Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau

The authorities in Belgium and Romania provided additional support to the investigation. The Italian authorities are currently conducting a large-scale investigation that is also targeting food fraud and large-scale trademark counterfeiting by an OCG operating in Italy.

Europol has been supporting this case since December 2022 by facilitating the exchange of information between the authorities involved and by providing analytical support. Mobile offices were deployed to Lithuania and France on the action day to assist the investigators.

The following authorities took part in this investigation:

  • Estonia: Estonian Police and Border Guard; Estonian Office of the Prosecutor General
  • France: Investigative judge of the Public Health Unit – Tribunal Judiciaire de Paris; OCLAESP (Central Office against Environmental and Public Health Crimes) Direction de Valenciennes; Departmental Gendarmerie Units from Beauvais, Rodez and Laval; National Investigation Department of the Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control; National Veterinary Investigation Brigade
  • Germany: Chief Public Prosecutor in Berlin; Chief Public Prosecutor in Lübeck; State Criminal Police Office Berlin; Tax Investigation Office - Central Audit Service, Field Office Elmshorn
  • Lithuania: Prosecutor General's Office of the Republic of Lithuania; Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau; Lithuanian Police
  • Romania: Prosecutor’s Office attached to Cluj Tribunal