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Illegal trade in fake and prohibited pesticides and fertilizers halted in Romania and Italy

July 22, 2024

An illegal trading scheme in counterfeit and banned pesticides and fertilizers that were potentially dangerous to consumers’ health has been halted by the Romanian and Italian authorities. Eurojust and Europol supported the joint investigation team (JIT). During a series of actions in both countries, evidence of large-scale fraud, forgery and tax evasion was gathered and one suspect was arrested.   The substances were all banned for trade in the European Union, as they could be dangerous to users and consumers as they contained high doses of active substances. The suspects illegally imported the products from China and Singapore, but sold them as bio- or organic fertilizers and pesticides, using fake labels. The suspects also sold goods that were fake but pretended they were legitimate organic products.   Between February and May 2023, three suspect shipments arriving from outside the European Union were detected by the Romanian customs authorities. Subsequent inspections by the phytosanitary authorities confirmed it concerned fake or banned products, using falsified labels.   Further investigations and searches in Romania, showed an organised crime group (OCG) was behind the illegal activities. The OCG was composed of Romanian and Italian nationals who took over existing companies in Romania or registered new trading companies for the sale of the products in Italy. Falsified declaration forms were used for this purpose.   The Italian judicial authority gathered extensive evidence on the destination to the domestic market of the goods illegally introduced into Romania and identified the suspects who had promoted the illicit traffic in agricultural products from Italy.   At the request of the authorities involved, early this year Eurojust assisted with the setting up and financing of a JIT team into the OCG. The Agency organised a dedicated coordination meeting and supported the cross-border judicial response to the illegal activities.   Europol held several operational meetings in order to proceed with national investigations in a synergistic and aligned manner. Furthermore, it facilitated the exchange of information and provided constant analytical support to the investigations. During operational activities, Europol sent an expert to the field to cross-check operational information in real time and provide the experts with any guidance and technical support.   This support led to a series of coordinated actions in Romania and Italy, during which ten locations were searched across Arad, Bucharest, Verona, and Naples, gathering additional evidence of the crimes. During the course of the activities, the Romanian Judicial Authority also arrested one of the suspects. (Source:https://www.eurojust.europa.eu/)

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