The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has taken part in a Joint Operation, which dismantled a sophisticated Spain-based criminal network involved in the illicit import, and trade of, refrigerant gases. Operation Marum, carried out jointly by the Guardia Civil, Agencia Tributaria (Tax Agency), Europol and OLAF, led to the arrest of 27 people (including the leaders of the organisation) and the seizure of 110 tonnes of different types of harmful gases, valued at €11 million.
Operation Marum uncovered a complex and sophisticated fraud endangering the environment and citizen’s health. Gases subject to quotas from the EU would be imported in Spain from China using false documents, meaning that many duties and taxes were not levied. Instead of being moved on from Spain, as was meant to happen, the gases were actually sold domestically at a vastly reduced rate, thus creating a black market. The profits from this illicit trade were then laundered and spent on luxury items such as high-end vehicles and real estate. Searches of premises linked to the fraud also uncovered €364,000 in cash, 435g of cocaine and 435 ecstasy tablets.
During the Operation, OLAF acted as an intelligence hub and established the international route of the suspected shipments. OLAF cooperated closely with Spanish authorities as well as those in other Member States and third countries. These actions were crucial in allowing partners to piece together the bigger picture.
Director General of OLAF Ville Itälä said: “OLAF has a long-standing cooperation with Spanish Authorities to tackle illicit trade and Operation Marum is a good example of this cooperation at work. OLAF’s added value lies in our analytical capacity and our ability to join the dots to help smash a complex fraud network, which spanned multiple jurisdictions. I am proud to see that OLAF, through its operational activity, is contributing to the proper enforcement of a key Regulation related to the EU Green Deal.”
The illicit import of HFCs – hydrofluorocarbons – has a major potential impact on the environment. Tackling this black market, especially illegal imports of these gases into the EU, is one of European Anti-Fraud office’s operational priorities. OLAF supports cross-border investigations, passing on information and intelligence on suspicious shipments and operators to the competent authorities that leads to significant seizures and detentions of illegal shipments.
For more information, you can read Guardia Civil’s press release.
- Publication date
- 30 June 2022
- European Anti-Fraud Office
- News type
- OLAF news article