Major police operation seizes over 360 tons of illegal pesticides

The smuggling of pesticides poses a threat to the food chain and to farmers
The smuggling of pesticides poses a threat to the food chain and to farmers

A major European police operation that included a big UK presence has seized over 360 tons of illegal or counterfeit pesticides.

Operation Silver Axe III, coordinated by Europol, led to the seizure of 360 tons of illegal pesticides.

Numerous police, customs and plant protection authorities, including those form the UK, participated in the operation.

During the operational phase, which began in April this year and lasted until May, OLAF selected 181 suspicious shipments of pesticides coming from third countries, mainly China.

The shipments were either declared as being in transit in the EU or declared for export from the EU to another third country, such as Russia.

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

For example, 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 or country of origin, was successfully seized at Szolnok by Hungarian customs officers.

The real customs value of the shipment exceeded $240,000. The retail value of the genuine pesticide would exceed $1m.

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

Threat to food chain

The smuggling of pesticides is a widespread problem, and poses a threat to the food chain, to farmers and ultimately to consumers because it allows dangerous products to reach the market.

The Acting Director-General of OLAF, Nicholas Ilett said smuggling occurs through complex contraband operations run by criminal networks.

“It is very difficult for a single authority to intercept smugglers," Mr Ilett said, "OLAF brings added value by providing our operational partners with key information on the movement of smuggled goods across the EU.

"These seizures illustrate how crucial international cooperation is in the fight against the illegal trade of counterfeit products."

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