Lithuanian Crime Network Nabbed in Food Fraud

Published: 02 June 2023

Europol stocks-of-foodA Lithuanian organized crime group allegedly placed millions of expired food products with altered labeling on the market. (Photo: Europol, License)

By Erika Di Benedetto

In a multinational operation, EU law enforcement agencies dismantled a Lithuanian organized crime group, which allegedly placed millions of expired food products with altered labeling on the market.

The criminal group, dismantled by authorities in Lithuania, Estonia, France, and Germany, is also suspected of engaging in large-scale VAT fraud.

According to a statement issued Wednesday by Eurojust, Lithuanian police arrested 24 suspects who had been active since at least early 2021 and are believed to have purchased millions of expired food products and other perishable goods, such as cosmetics, in Germany and France.

Initial estimates suggest that the alleged perpetrators obtained over one million euro (US$1.072 million) through their criminal activities.

The offenders are believed to have tampered with the expiry dates on these products and regularly supplied them to the Lithuanian market, where they were purchased by thousands of consumers. The suspects purportedly maintained fictitious accounting records to conceal the actual purchase and sale values, thereby evading tax payments.

Police conducted approximately 70 searches and inspections at warehouses and other locations, and over 30 witnesses were interviewed in Estonia, France, Germany, and Lithuania.

In Lithuania, various equipment used to alter expiry dates on products, including household solvents, printers, and labels, was discovered, along with substantial quantities of expired products.

Eurojust coordinated the joint action, involving over 200 officers on the ground during the operation.

As part of a large-scale investigation, Italian authorities are currently targeting an organized criminal group operating in Italy, involved in food fraud and large-scale trademark counterfeiting.