BRUSSELS (B) – The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Brussels recently filed two separate charges at the Antwerp court for evading €6.6 million in customs duties on the import of electric bicycles from China.
In both cases, both the companies that imported the e-bikes and the companies that handled the customs formalities are accused of filing incorrect customs declarations to avoid anti-dumping and countervailing duties. The e-bikes were imported in separate parts via Belgium, probably to avoid anti-dumping duties on fully assembled e-bikes. According to the European public prosecutor’s office, the various parts could easily be assembled into an electric bicycle through simple assembly. This is seen as evading the higher duties that apply to fully assembled bicycles. The specific companies involved have not been disclosed.
Defendants risk prison sentences plus a fine of 5 to 10 times the customs duties evaded
In the first case, the defendants’ activities are estimated to have caused damage to the EU’s financial interests of at least €3.5 million in evaded customs duties. In the second case, the estimated damage is at least € 3.1 million. If found guilty, the defendants face prison sentences of 4 months to 5 years, plus a fine of 5 to 10 times the amount of customs duties evaded.
The facts leading to both charges were reported to EPPO by the General Administration of Customs and Excise of Belgium (Administration générale des Douanes et Excises) and the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). The EPPO is the European Union’s independent public prosecutor’s office, charged with investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating crimes against the EU’s financial interests.
The two cases will be heard in court in February and March respectively, with a ruling expected to follow one month after the substantive hearing.
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