Lithuanian food fraud ring taken down

Enforcement agencies in Lithuania, Estonia, France and Germany have dismantled an organised crime network suspected of placing millions of expired food items back on the market with doctored labelling.

The gang – based in Lithuania – is also accused of large-scale VAT fraud, according to Europol and Eurojust, which helped coordinate the operation. As a result of the action, which focused on searches and inspections of around 70 warehouses and other locations, there have been 24 arrests.

The video below, taken on the day of the operation on May 23, reveals the broad range of foodstuffs that were being falsified by the gang, including frozen meat, poultry, and fish, as well as the unsanitary conditions in which perishable foods were being stored. The haul also included some expired cosmetic products.

The expired products were purchased in countries like France and Germany and then supplied into the Lithuanian market, where they are thought to have been purchased and consumed by thousands of people. Initial estimates are that the network made at least €1m (just over $1m) from the illegal activity.

The suspects allegedly kept fictitious accounting records to hide the real purchase and sale values in order to avoid paying taxes.

During the operation, officers found equipment for altering the expiry dates on products – including household solvents, printers and labels – at several locations in Lithuania, as well as large quantities of expired products and quantities of cash.

The case is another example of the threat of food fraud within the EU, which has been the target of regular enforcement campaigns in recent years under the Operation Opson banner. Last November, in the 11th instalment of the enforcement crackdown, authorities seized 27,000 tonnes of fraudulent and potentially hazardous food and beverage products, including 15m litres of alcoholic beverages.

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