Bratislava, September 8 (TASR) – Slovakia’s Financial Administration (tax office) rejects claims that Slovakia should pay €302 million into the EU budget due to customs fraud, the authority’s spokesperson Ivana Skokanova told TASR on Saturday.
Skokanova was responding to information reported by Dennik N daily on Friday (September 7) that the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF) during its investigation into textiles and footwear imports from China to the EU uncovered customs fraud totalling €2.2 billion, with goods worth around €300 million of that sum entering the EU via Slovakia.
According to Financial Administration, the OLAF report deals with goods imported from Asian countries mainly between 2013-14. At that time several countries, such as Malta, Spain, the United Kingdom and Germany, almost had the status of hubs for clearing Asian goods through customs, added the Slovak authority. [Goods imported from China were undervalued, which made it possible for importers to profit from evading customs duties and related taxes – ed. note].
“Right after we identified the problems with customs duties and undervalued Asian goods, we organised a V4 [the Visegrad Four countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia] meeting in Trencianske Teplice [Trencin region] in 2014. Based on our initiative, the Trencianska Declaration was adopted, setting minimum thresholds for high-risk profiles,” said Skokanova, adding that the effective nature of this measure has been reflected in a significant decline in losses on customs duties. The losses gradually decreased from €163 million in 2013 to €6.9 million in 2015, to €3.5 million in 2016 and to €1.3 million in 2017, added the spokesperson.
OLAF discovered that a sea route from China via Hamburg in Germany was used most frequently for textiles and footwear fraud. From Hamburg, the containers were transported via lorries to other EU countries – the United Kingdom, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, France and Malta. The highest amount of fraud with textiles was uncovered in Great Britain, where losses in customs duties were quantified at €1.9 billion.