SHAFAQNA – Europol and Eurojust supported an operation on 24 March targeting several organized crime groups (OCGs) suspected of excise fraud. Millions of euros were recovered and 61 searches and seizures were conducted. Law enforcement and prosecution authorities of six Member States executed 53 freezing orders and arrested eight individuals.
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 need to be tackled to reduce cross-border excise fraud are: differences in national excise legislation; weaknesses in EU excise control and inspection systems; and corruption.
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 VAT.
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 at Eurojust’s coordination centre in The Hague. Europol deployed a mobile office while Eurojust’s Case Analysis Unit provided real-time analytical and operational assistance.
The operation set a milestone in the fight against carousel fraudsters, 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.