Massive Seizures in Euro-Asian Customs Crack Down on Illicit Trade

Published: 19 October 2023

Shipping Containers

Tonnes of illicit waste, pesticides, cigarettes, fertilizers and other goods were confiscated in numerous European and Asian ports. (Photo: PickPik, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

In a joint operation, customs officials in European and Asian ports meticulously inspected deep-sea containers and confiscated tonnes of illicit cigarettes and pesticides destined for Europe, as well as waste shipments bound for Asia.

The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) spearheaded this endeavor in the ongoing battle against dangerous substances. The operation culminated in the seizure of more than 1,221 tonnes of illicit waste, 27,469 liters and five tonnes of illicit pesticides, over 67 million cigarettes, and 10 tonnes of tobacco.

In addition to these items, officers detained shipments containing 1.6 million batteries, 5,127 pieces of clothing, 100 game consoles, and 14.5 tonnes of fertilizer. Remarkably, all of these items were either counterfeit or intended for smuggling, as disclosed by OLAF in an official statement.

Participation in the operation dubbed Noxia extended to 24 EU member nations, the United Kingdom, Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, the People's Republic of China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, as highlighted by OLAF.

"Together, we have exemplified the power of international cooperation, demonstrating that with united efforts, we can combat illicit activities and protect citizens and markets from dangerous substances and smuggling," Ville Itälä, the Director-General of OLAF, said.

The operation formed part of the Joint Custom Operation of The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), an intergovernmental process established in 1996 to promote dialogue and collaboration between Asia and Europe. It transpired in the spring of 2023, specifically targeting deep-sea containers in EU and Asian ports to thwart the smuggling of hazardous materials.

Itälä explained that ASEM brings together 53 partners from both continents representing around 65 percent of global GDP and 68 percent of global trade.

The operation was supported by Europol and the World Customs Organization (WCO), as delineated in the official statement.