Europol smash smuggling ring that sold German fuel to Malta

Millions of euros in excise fraud recovered in Europol and Eurojust operation with Italian finance police

Italian finance police on Thursday arrested eight people on suspicion of trafficking diesel into six European countries including Italy for sale on the black market.

The suspects are alleged to have imported over 4,000 tonnes of fuel into Italy illegally starting from 2013 for sale in Italy, Germany, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Romania and Malta.

Six of the suspects were taken into prison custody and two were placed under house arrest, including one in the United Kingdom.

Dozens of searches were also carried out across the countries involved in the probe coordinated by prosecutors in Rome.

On 24 March, Europol and Eurojust supported an operation targeting several organised crime groups suspected of excise fraud. Millions of euros were recovered and 61 searches and seizures were conducted. Law enforcement and prosecution authorities of six Member States executed 53 freezing orders and arrested eight individuals.

Operation Sturm Oil resulted from a large-scale Italian operation carried out by the Public Prosecution Office in Rome and the Guardia di Finanza against an organised crime group (OCG) involved in massive carousel fraud of excise duties. The investigated OCG was found to be mixing diesel fuel with additives to disguise the real nature of the product and avoid VAT.

The oil, purchased in Germany and allegedly transported to Malta and Greece, was instead stockpiled and sold on the black market in Italy through a sophisticated network of buyers. A complex network of companies provided false invoices and bogus transport documents, while several associates in various member states provided logistical support and transportation facilities.

Representatives of the national authorities of Italy, the UK, Romania, Germany, Malta and the Czech Republic, worked closely at Eurojust's coordination centre in The Hague. Europol deployed a mobile office while Eurojust's Case Analysis Unit provided real-time analytical and operational assistance.

"Yesterday's action day set a milestone in the fight against carousel fraudsters, not only for the excellent operational results of the coordinated action across six Member States, but also because criminals have been deprived of money and property to compensate for the economic losses suffered by Italy due to the fraud," Europol said.