WCO, Europe strengthen cooperation to tackle customs fraud

A new cooperation agreement to further strengthen the fight against customs fraud has been signed between the Secretary-General of the World Customs Organization (WCO), Kunio Mikuriya, and the Director-General of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), Ville Itälä.

The Administrative Cooperation Arrangement, which widens a previous agreement from 2003, focuses on both operational cooperation and information sharing.

The 2003 arrangement between the WCO and OLAF covered only the exchange of information on tobacco seizures. The new agreement will see the exchange of information expanded to cover a wider range of fraudulent activity (counterfeiting, illicit trade in protected species, etc).

It will also help the two bodies to work more closely and effectively together on joint operations in the field. The respective members of the WCO and OLAF will now have access to non-personal data on a larger set of customs fraud cases shared by their counterparts in the EU Member States. This significantly simplifies the sharing of information among customs administrations as it will now be automatically replicated in their different databases and IT systems.

WCO Secretary General Dr. Kunio Mikuriya said: “This agreement is a testimony of the long-lasting cooperation between the WCO and OLAF and demonstrates the effectiveness of a coordinated approach to combat fraudulent activities. Customs administrations will greatly benefit from the effective sharing of information using proven technologies. I am also looking forward to an even more enhanced collaboration with regards to joint field operations, especially during this time of global crisis.”

OLAF Director-General Ville Itala said: OLAF and the WCO have nearly 20 years experience of working together against tobacco smugglers and counterfeiters. I am delighted that we have reached this new arrangement to extend this collaboration to other major areas of fraud, including the illegal trade in endangered species. I am sure our already extremely successful partnership will go from strength to strength with this new arrangement, to the benefit of everyone.”

WCO and OLAF frequently cooperate at the operational level, most recently in WCO-led operations against illegal trafficking linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and illegal shipments of waste or others coordinated by OLAF on counterfeit hygiene products and car parts. These successful operations actions largely contributed not only to the protection of the EU budget but also that of our environment and the safety of consumers.

The new arrangement builds on last year’s agreement to link the main databases of the two anti-fraud bodies, the WCO’s Customs Enforcement Network (CEN) database and the Customs Information System (CIS+) of OLAF.

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