Operation HYGIEA: Approximatively 200,000 pieces of counterfeit perfumes, toothpastes, cosmetics, 120 tonnes of counterfeit detergents, shampoos, diapers as well as more than 4.2 million of other counterfeit goods (battery cells, footwear, toys, tennis balls, shavers, electronic devices, etc.), 77 million cigarettes and 44 tonnes of counterfeit water pipe tobacco have been seized by the Asian and EU customs authorities in an ASEM-led operation co-ordinated by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).
The Joint Customs Operation HYGIEA was carried out within the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) framework as part of joint efforts of the participating countries in the fight against counterfeit goods. The results of this operation coordinated by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) were shared at the 13th ASEM customs directors-generals and commissioners' meeting held in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, on 9-10 October 2019.
On behalf of the ASEM customs directors-general and commissioners and the European Commission, Nguyen Van Can, director-general of Vietnam customs and Chairperson, announced that the results of the Operation code-named 'HYGIEA' targeting counterfeit goods used in the daily lives of citizens (also called fast-moving consumer goods or FMCG), include:
A total of 194,498 pieces of counterfeit perfumes, toothpaste, cosmetics as well as 120,833.69kg of counterfeit detergent, shampoo, diapers detained and seized as direct results of the operation targeting counterfeit FMCG products.
In addition to the above seized counterfeit goods, several shipments of tobacco products – either found to be counterfeit or intended to be smuggled - containing 44,062 kg of water pipe tobacco and 77,811,800 cigarettes in total were detained during the operation.
- 4,202,432 pieces of other counterfeit items (battery cells, footwear, toys, tennis balls, shavers, electronic devices, etc.), including non-compliant with the safety rules or smuggled.
During this operation, the customs authorities carried out targeted physical or X-ray controls on several hundred selected shipments transported by sea containers. These checks uncovered a wide array of counterfeit goods including counterfeit cosmetics, perfumes, soaps, shampoos, detergents, battery cells, footwear, toys, tennis balls, shavers, electronic devices.
During the operational phase of HYGIEA, OLAF facilitated the cooperation between the participant countries with the support of a team of ten liaison officers from Bangladesh, China, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal, Spain and EUROPOL, all working together in Brussels. A Virtual Operational Coordination Unit (VOCU) - a secure communication channel for such joint customs operations was used to channel the flow of incoming information. This exchange of information in real time allowed all the experts involved to identify the suspect flows of counterfeit goods out of ordinary commercial transactions.
European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) Director-General Ville Itala said: “Operation HYGIEA shows what can be achieved when customs authorities, international partners and industry work together to fight fakes. Counterfeit goods defraud consumers, harm legitimate businesses and cause huge losses to public revenues. Counterfeit goods also undermine public health policies. When fakes flood our markets, the only ones to benefit are fraudsters and criminals. I warmly congratulate all those that participated in Operation HYGIEA for the excellent results.”
[*] EU Member States, Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Rep. Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, and Vietnam
OLAF mission, mandate and competences:
OLAF’s mission is to detect, investigate and stop fraud with EU funds.
OLAF fulfils its mission by:
- Carrying out independent investigations into fraud and corruption involving EU funds, so as to ensure that all EU taxpayers’ money reaches projects that can create jobs and growth in Europe;
- contributing to strengthening citizens’ trust in the EU Institutions by investigating serious misconduct by EU staff and members of the EU Institutions, and;
- developing a sound EU anti-fraud policy.
In its independent investigative function, OLAF can investigate matters relating to fraud, corruption and other offences affecting the EU financial interests concerning:
- All EU expenditure: the main spending categories are Structural Funds, agricultural policy and rural.
development funds, direct expenditure and external aid;
- Some areas of EU revenue, mainly customs duties, and;
- suspicions of serious misconduct by EU staff and members of the EU institutions.
High-level conference on anti-money laundering and countering terrorist financing - closing the door on dirty money
On 30 September, the European Commission hosted a high-level conference on the EU's fight against money laundering and terrorist financing. This conference marked the conclusion of the public consultation that was launched in parallel with the adoption of the Anti-Money Laundering Action Plan on 7 May 2020.
There was a series of dedicated panel debates and keynote speeches by high-profile speakers who are on the front line of the fight against dirty money, including Catanzaro Chief Prosecutor Nicola Gratteri and French Court of Cassation General Prosecutor Francois Molins.
An Economy that Works for the People Valdis Executive Vice-President Dombrovskis said: “Dirty money should have nowhere to hide. The EU has been ramping up its anti-money laundering rules. They are now among the toughest in the world - but still not enforced equally across the board. It is clear that we must do a lot more to shut off remaining loopholes, remove weak links, and co-ordinate better between EU countries. Effectiveness, efficiency, enforcement: these are the governing principles of our strategy in tackling money-laundering. They should apply across the EU and across the world. That is how we can beat it.”
Three thematic panels will cover the areas for future reform of EU rules, while a closing roundtable will bring together representatives from the European Commission, the German Presidency and the European Parliament to highlight the EU's united position and commitment to fighting money laundering and terrorist financing. Each panel will include an opportunity for questions via Twitter with the hashtag #StopDirtyMoneyEU. For more information, details on the programme and a link to the live feed, please see here.
Russian - Irish Business Council launches an inquiry into Russian businessman
The Russian Irish Business Council has launched a broad inquiry into alleged illegal activities of Russian businessman Mr. Sergey Govyadin and his close associate Mr. Ildar Samiyev.
The Council, unifying companies working in the UK, EU and Russia, have sent a letter to HSBC and a number of other financial institutions in the UK requesting information the banks might have about Mr. Sergey Govyadin. It alleges that both he and Mr. Samiyev were obviously involved in money laundering and other illegal purposes via the UK legal system and the UK offices of HSBC. The Council asks to investigate possible acts of fraud by Mr. Govyadin and Mr. Samiyev. This information was also sent to the US Internal Revenue Service for consideration and possible feedback due to its criminal background. There are indications that both are using the US monetary mechanisms for their illegal activities. Full copies of these letters can be read at the foot of this article, whilst numerous legal papers are in EU Reporter's possession.
The story of Sergey Govyadin has much in common with other infamous "new riches" from Eastern Europe who have a profound criminal portfolio.
Visibly a prosperous real estate businessman and developer, Sergey Govyadin is alleged in Russian media as being involved in many criminal cases related to fraud and other criminal incidents on selling elite property and apartments in luxurious districts in Moscow. Newspapers in Russia call Mr. Govyadin a "shadow influencer" alleging corrupt connections with a number of police authorities.
Togather with Ildar Samiyev, Mr. Govyadin has long been featured in the Russian criminal chronicle as a scandalous person, primarily found in fraudulent deals with private property and luxe apartments in fabulous districts in Moscow and in its suburbs. Back in 2015, Govyadin was “crowned” as a “successful millionaire” by tabloid press. By that time he was married to the beauty pageant - Miss Russia. However, his name remains on the lists of fraudsters and corrupt officials published from time to time by the media.
According to them, Govyadin and Samiev denigrate other people who are their partners, in order to justify their allegedly illegal transactions. In Moscow, a high-profile trial has long been underway in the case of developer Albert Khudoyan, whom Govyadin and Samiev accused of fraud and deception. As a result, the businessman was arrested. His case became additionally known due to violations on the part of the investigation. Some corrupt law enforcement officials tried to profit from his arrest according to the media.
Russian business ombudsman Boris Titov has already defended Khudoyan. However, the process against him continues. Khudoyan suffers from heart disease.
The alleged illegal activities of Govyadin and Samiyev have a long history.
For example, together with Ildar Samiev, Govyadin is alleged to have taken part in the withdrawal of funds from Russian Svyaz Bank. He is alleged to have been involved in fraud with apartments in the elite Knightsbridge residential complex in Khamovniki district of Moscow, as well as a number of other stories.
For example, back in 2014, Optima property management LLC, owned by Govyadin, took $ 95 million loan from the state-owned Svyaz Bank and used the funds to purchase 22 apartments in the elite Knightsbridge residential complex under construction in Khamovniki. This company was controlled by Sergey Govyadin and Ildar Samiev through a chain of companies, namely the Russian LLC "Eurofinance" and the English company Mansfiled Executive Limited (from 25 to 50 percent of Mansfiled Executive Limited belongs to Govyadin, according to the Endole database). At the same time, the price of apartments under the deal was inflated, which allowed to actually withdraw more than a billion rubles from the state Bank.
The residential complex was constructed in 2016. Probably, because of the extremely high price, the purchased apartments remain on the balance sheet of Optima property management, since it is impossible to sell them at such a high price. Optima properties has not yet returned the debt to the Bank, and in 2018 Svyaz Bank filed a lawsuit to recover $ 95 million from Optima property management, but failed. As a result, the state, which is the owner of Svyaz Bank, suffered, having completed its rehabilitation in 2011. The debtor has apartments on the balance sheet that are unlikely to cost more than 50 percent of the debt amount, and more than 1 billion rubles settled on the accounts of the developer Knightsbridge, controlled by Govyadin.
It is obvious that the request of the Russian Irish Business Clouncilwill be an occasion for more close and detailed attention to the illegal activities of Govyadin & Co. British and American financial institutions will hopefully be held accountable of those international speculators.
USA tax letter
Victims' Rights: Commissioner Reynders launches new platform and presents first European Commission's Co-ordinator for victims' rights
At a high-level videoconference on 22 September, co-hosted with the German Presidency, Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders inaugurated the new Victims' Rights Platform – an important deliverable following the adoption of the first EU Strategy on Victims' Rights earlier this year.
The new platform, which will meet annually and on an ad-hoc basis when necessary, will serve as an important forum for discussions on victims' rights with all relevant actors. These include the European Network on Victims' Rights, the EU Network of national contact points for compensation, the EU Counter–Terrorism Coordinator, Eurojust, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights and civil society.
In addition to these organizations, who will also participate this afternoon, the event will gather EU ministers of justice and members of the European Parliament. At the conference, Commissioner Reynders will also introduce the Commission's newly appointed Coordinator for Victims' Rights Katarzyna Janicka-Pawlowska.
Ahead of the event, Commissioner Reynders said: “Today is an important moment in our work to protect victims' rights in the European Union. With a new EU-wide Victims' Rights Platform and a new Coordinator for Victims' Rights, we are showing clear commitment to carry this work on, and only a few months after the Commission presented the first EU strategy in this area. I welcome the support of the German Presidency as well as our stakeholders, and I look forward to our cooperation going forward. On 24 June 2020, the Commission adopted the first ever EU Strategy on Victims' Rights. The primary goal is to ensure that all victims of crime can rely on their rights no matter where in the European Union and no matter in what circumstances the crime happened."
More information on the strategy is available here.
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