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EC fraud office makes illegal F-gas imports a priority

Delegates at the OLAF organised meeting in Brussels last week

BELGIUM: The fight against illegal imports of HFC refrigerants into the EU is said to have been made an operational priority for OLAF, the European Commission’s anti-fraud office.

At a meeting in Brussels last week, OLAF is reported to have been attended by representatives from EU industry, DG TaxUD, which develops and carries out the Commission’s policies on customer and taxation, and the Commission’s environmental arm DG Clima. 

Recognising that customs and environmental authorities as well as industry need to work together to counter cross-border fraud, OLAF maintains that the objective of the meeting was to listen, exchange information and share experiences. 

OLAF says that the fight against the illegal imports of HFCs is one of its key operational priorities and “fully matches” the Commission’s intention to make Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050 under its European Green Deal.

“Such illegal activities harm the environment, generate illicit profits and losses of tax revenues and create unfair competition for legitimate business,” OLAF states.

Industry and environmental groups have previously reported that the illegal trade of HFC refrigerants in contravention of the European F-gas regulations may account for as much as 20% of the legally allowable quota.

Although previously described as “small” and “insignificant” by the European Commission’s environmental arm, DG Clima, the illegal trade has had a negative effect on EC tax revenues. It has been estimated that illegal imports though Greece alone – one of the countries at the forefront of the illegal trade – cost the Greek exchequer over €20m in lost VAT and taxes in 2018.

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