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Billions of pounds of taxes and thousands of jobs are being lost to organised crime

October 23, 2013 3:36 PM
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Bill Newton Dunn in EU ParliamentToday the European Parliament voted on a report calling for stronger European cooperation to tackle organised crime, corruption and money-laundering in the EU. The report calls for better information-sharing and coordination between national authorities to enable them to fight organised crime and confiscate criminal assets. It also calls for stronger maritime cooperation and border management to stamp out human-trafficking and the smuggling of counterfeit products, weapons and illegal drugs.

Bill Newton Dunn, Liberal Democrat MEP for the East Midlands and Liberal coordinator on the European Parliament's committee on Organised Crime, commented:

"Shockingly, at a time when governments across Europe are struggling to balance the books, we are losing billions of pounds worth of tax revenue each year to gangs of ruthless criminals. VAT fraud alone is estimated to account for €100 billion of lost revenue a year to the EU, while £4.3 billion of taxes are being lost to criminals annually in the UK."

"Moreover, thousands of British jobs are being lost in manufacturing and retail because legitimate companies cannot compete with the counterfeit goods flooding our streets.

"Strengthening European cooperation will not only make it easier for British police to bring criminals to justice, it will put hard-earned money back into the pockets of taxpayers and create more legitimate jobs."

Commenting on the report's endorsement of a European Public Prosecutor's Office to tackle fraud on the EU budget, which costs over £432mn a year, Bill Newton Dunn said:

"The UK, as stated in the coalition agreement, has already decided that it won't be part of the European Public Prosecutor, along with Denmark and Ireland. Liberal Democrat MEPs support the formation of the Prosecutor as it will help to tackle fraud on the EU budget across other European member states, therefore preventing taxpayers' money from being wasted.

"The decision by the Tories and UKIP to oppose this measure smacks of hypocrisy. They spend their time complaining about fraud on the EU budget, but when push comes to shove they aren't willing to do anything about it."

The proposed European Public Prosecutor's Office would only have responsibility for prosecuting alleged fraud on the EU budget. Any proposal to widen its powers would be subject to unanimity in the European Council and could therefore be vetoed by the UK.

The Facts

Key statistics from today's European Parliament report:

  • VAT fraud generates an annual loss of revenue to the European Union of EUR €100 million
  • Illegal trafficking in cigarettes results in an annual tax loss of approximately €10 billion
  • Cybercrime is affecting millions of consumers and causing annual losses estimated at €290 billion
  • There are more than 10 million illegal weapons in circulation in Europe
  • Trafficking in human beings generates an estimated profit of EUR 25 billion. The total number of forced labourers in the EU is estimated at 880 000, of which 270 000 are victims of sexual exploitation

The full report can be found here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=REPORT&reference=A7-2013-0307&language=EN&mode=XML

A recent report by PwC found that counterfeiting and piracy could be costing the UK economy up to £30 billion a year and 14,500 jobs - https://www.pwc.co.uk/en_UK/uk/assets/pdf/anti-counterfeiting-consumer-survey-october-2013.pdf

The HMRC states that criminals account for 13% of the UK's tax gap, or £4.7 billion. http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/statistics/tax-gaps/mtg-2013.pdf

More information on the European Public Prosecutor's Office can be found here: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-13-693_en.htm

Fraud against the EU budget is estimated by the Commission at around €500 million a year. Currently, the EU's anti-fraud office OLAF passes on its investigations to national authorities who then decide independently whether or not to prosecute. However, governments often do not have a strong enough incentive to initiate criminal proceedings, as they are costly and result in them having to pay the stolen money back to the EU.