360t of counterfeit pesticides seized in Operation Silver Axe III

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has seized 360t of illegal or counterfeit pesticides as part of its Europol-coordinated campaign Operation Silver Axe III.

The international operation involved checks at major seaports, airports and land borders, as well as production and repacking facilities in the 27 participating countries.

During the operational phase – which ran from April until May – OLAF selected 181 suspicious shipments of pesticides coming from third countries (mainly China), that were either declared as being in transit in the EU or declared for export from the EU to another third country (Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Turkey).

The acting director-general of OLAF, Nicholas Ilett, said: “The smuggling of pesticides poses a threat to the food chain, to farmers and ultimately to consumers because it allows dangerous products to reach our market.

Smuggling occurs through complex contraband operations run by criminal networks. It is very difficult for a single authority to intercept smugglers.

“OLAF brings added value by providing our operational partners with key information on the movement of smuggled goods across the EU.

“I congratulate Europol and the other participants for this success. These seizures illustrate how crucial international cooperation is in the fight against the illegal trade of counterfeit products.”

Suspicious shipments

Suspicious shipments were notified to the participating national and third country customs authorities by OLAF directly or via Europol.

For example, with the support of the Ukrainian authorities and the OLAF Liaison Officer in Kiev, OLAF asked Hungarian and Slovak Customs to intercept a suspicious consignment of 20,400kg pesticides on its way from China to Hungary via Ukraine.

The shipment contained unmarked packaging with no indication of producer, country of origin or trade name.

It was successfully seized at Szolnok by Hungarian customs officers (NTCA) and the experts from the National Food Chain Safety Office (NFCSO). The real customs value of the shipment exceeded $240,000.

The retail value of the genuine pesticide would exceed $1 million.

In addition, OLAF also contributed to stopping another suspicious shipment of 5.4t of pesticide (thiacloprid) initially transported under a customs transit regime from Turkey to Germany and later on from Germany to the Czech Republic.