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EC Reveals Details Of 'Operation Diabolo'

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

25 April 2007

The European Commission on Monday gave details regarding the joint customs operation in which it recently participated, known as 'Operation Diabolo'.

Joint customs operations aim at placing under surveillance for a limited period sensitive, prohibited or high-taxed goods and taking appropriate operational measures to prevent any fraud. A common set of criteria is generally used for the assessment of the threat and the definition of risk profiles: the nature of goods, the means of transport and the route followed (point of departure, point of transhipment, point of arrival).

Operation Diabolo was a maritime operation that focused on containers shipped from Asian ports of loading to EU ports of discharge. The operation focused mainly on counterfeit cigarettes, but the possibility that other counterfeit goods or sensitive goods could be retained or seized by the EU Member States was also incorporated.

All 27 EU Member States participated, and the operation was further supported by Interpol, Europol and the World Customs Organization (WCO).

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), as an European Commission Directorate General, organised Operation Diabolo. As coordinator, OLAF assumed responsibility for the relevant business plan based on a threat assessment with targeted ports of departure, routes and entry points into the EU, as well as transshipment routes and risk indicators, making use of additional information available on container shipping lines, consignees, consignors.

Goods seized included:

  • Cigarettes and other tobacco products;
  • Coats, jeans, shorts, track trousers, jackets, caps, summer slippers, bags, garments;
  • Sports shoes, sandals, shoes;
  • Mobile phones, autoradios, MP3 players;
  • Poultry and other meat; and
  • Miscellaneous items, including sunglasses, watches, and toys.

With regard to the question of the amount of duties that can be recovered as a result of Operation Diabolo, the EC explained on Monday that:

"The joint operation has prevented losses to public budgets, therefore there is no need for recoveries. In seizures of counterfeit cigarettes alone, this operation forestalled potential losses to the budgets of the European Community and its Member States (customs duties and taxes) of approximately EUR 220 million."

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