More than €2m seized in e-bike smuggling case
Italy’s financial police have seized more than €2 million from a company suspected of smuggling electronic bike parts from China to evade customs duties, following an investigation led by the European Union's fraud-fighting agency EPPO.
A company in Venice which produces and markets bikes allegedly evaded paying anti-dumping and customs duties by importing unassembled e-bike parts from China in separate shipments instead of importing the products complete, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) said in a statement.
It came to light after the Italian Customs and Monopolies Agency took a closer look at the import declarations the company had made. The agency then reported the firm to the Luxembourg-based EPPO “for aggravated smuggling”, the statement said.
“Consequently, the company evaded anti-dumping and customs duties of over €2 million,” EPPO wrote. More than €2 million in financial assets have now been seized under the investigation.
In a separate investigation in the city of Vicenza, just 75km west of Venice, the Italian financial police seized €470,000 from a company also suspected of evading anti-dumping and customs duties by falsely declaring the origin of imported goods, EPPO wrote.
The firm allegedly declared the Tungsten electrodes, used for welding, had been imported from Thailand instead of China, which allowed it to benefit from a 6% duty instead of a 63.5% duty, leading to an illegal tax saving of more than €470,000.
EPPO first set up shop in the Kirchberg area of Luxembourg in June last year and it has since received around 2,500 reports of crime against the EU budget, representing an estimated loss of €5 billion to the bloc’s budget, according to figures earlier this year.
A total of 22 EU countries are full members, meaning they all have at least one prosecutor in Luxembourg working with investigation teams in their home countries. Five countries – Poland, Hungary, the Republic of Ireland, Denmark and Sweden – opted out, although Sweden is planning to join later this year.
Just four months after launching, EPPO helped secure its first conviction after a Slovak mayor was handed a three-year suspended sentence for providing false documents to illegally obtain financial aid from EU money.
Only one investigation into potential fraud against the EU budget was launched in Luxembourg last year out of eight complaints relating to the country, EPPO’s 2021 annual report showed.