BRUSSELS (AP) — Customs fraud on apparel brought from China to mainland Europe through Britain has cost European Union states billions of euros, according to the EU's anti-fraud office, which recommends billing London some $2.1 billion in lost duties.
The European Anti-Fraud Office said Wednesday that from 2013 to 2016, criminals evaded customs duties with false invoices and wrong declarations upon arrival in the U.K. The textiles and shoes shipped from China were in fact destined for black market sales on the European mainland.
The office, known as OLAF, advised the EU Commission to try to rectify the situation by getting 1.99 billion euros from the British government since duties collected by member countries go into the EU budget.
It said the commission and Britain must now agree on how to deal with the investigation.
The recommendations of the OLAF office first were reported by the U.S. news outlet Politico.
OLAF can only make recommendations, and it is up to the EU executive to follow up. The timing is awkward since Britain is to announce officially before the end of the month that it intends to leave the EU.
According to OLAF, customs fraud grew in Britain while several other EU nations took action to prevent it. It said Britain had yet to initiate any fraud probe into the matter, even though OLAF kept London informed about its investigation.