International crime gangs use false packaging for garlic smuggling

14 Jan 2013


In 2010 China produced around  18.5m tons of garlic which amounts to around eighty percent of world production.  Most European garlic comes from Poland, pills Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Spain, Italy and France.  However demand in the EU is so great for cheap garlic that it has become a product for  which international crime gangs are prepared to take on board.

In order to product domestic producers, the EU introduced an import duty of 9.6 percent together with an excise duty of EUR1,200 per tonne on imported garlic in 2001.  The excise duty is applied when the import quota of 59,000 tons is exceeded.  China is permitted to export 34,000 tonnes to the EU.

In January 2011, Polish authorities seized 144 tonnes of Chinese garlic labelled as being onions which have no duties attached to them.  The duty involved in this seizure should have been EUR180,ooo.

The fraud is based on packaging and documentation which may identify the goods as coming from Turkey or Egypt which are not subject to the additional duties or as being another product or as being in transit. One way of doing this is by taking the product to Norway which is outside of the EU and then arranging transit through the long and largely uncontrolled Swedish border.

Last month, a British citizen received a six year prison sentence for smuggling garlic into the UK.  He was caught when authorities recognised that the product was not ginger due to the low temperature in the container used for smuggling.

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