Pan-European VAT fraud crime group dismantled

02 July 2018
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Earlier this month, the results of Operation OCTOPUS II were made public following a debriefing meeting co-organised in Paris by the French Customs and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).

Involving over 9 EU Member States with the support of Europol, OCTOPUS II ran between June and December 2017 and targeted criminal networks importing clothing and footwear from China into the EU by misusing the Customs Procedure 4200. This procedure entitles third country importations to be released into free circulation with a deferred payment of the import VAT until the goods’ arrival with the consignee. Unfortunately, criminals were quick to jump on the bandwagon: the value declared by the consignee to the customs was on multiple occasions under declared, or else the goods went missing along the way.


  • Over 1 000 lorries were checked, among which 277 of these requiring some degree of follow up or seizure
  • 5 criminal networks were identified, and a number of shell companies immediately closed down
  • Over 500 000 counterfeit goods were seized in France alone.

OCTOPUS II revealed that this type of large-scale fraud was the work of highly-knowledgeable and well organised criminal networks who knew the ins and outs of the logistics circuits and control systems to subsequently abuse them.

A number of investigations have been opened at the pan-European level on the basis on of the information gathered during the operational phase.