The searches made by DIICOT target two groups of 80 persons, suspected of importing meat from EU states. According to Agriculture minister Daniel Constantin, the meat was in warehouses and did not reach the shelf.
Law enforcement institutions yesterday raided over 100 locations in Bucharest and several counties, in order to dismantle a criminal ring whose members are suspect of tax evasion and money laundering, by delivering to shops tons of products made of spoiled meat, Mediafax reports. According to judiciary sources, the searches made by DIICOT targeted the members of an organised crime group suspect of tax evasion, money laundering and sale of spoiled food products. According to the sources, the criminal group produced a loss of approximately EUR 15 M.
The sources mentioned that the members of the group imported meat from countries of the European Union and sold it in Romanian shops without declaring the amounts. If the meat was no longer within the warranty interval, it was processed and transformed into various products, which were put on sale in shops as well, added the sources. The searches took place in Bucharest and several counties, including Ialomita, Dambovita, Cluj and Slobozia and the suspects will be taken to the central offices of DIICOT. Employees from the Customs Department and Consumer Protection are among those targeted by the probe regarding the tax evasion with meat and products of spoiled meat.
DIICOT informed that the searches made Wednesday target two groups of 80 persons, suspected of importing meat from EU states, which they sold on the black market, a way of action of the criminal groups being supported by the big meat producers of the Romanian market.
According to investigators, the members of the criminal groups, structured on several levels, bought through Romania-based companies meat and eggs from Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom, Germany without paying VAT as required by law, the real operations being demonstrated by accounting documents. Later, the merchandise was sold to the end beneficiary, by adding the VAT.
Agriculture Minister Daniel Constantin said that the food was in warehouses and it is unlikely that it was put on sale. “We identified some quantities probably resulting from tax evasion. Apparently they did not reach the shelf and were still in warehouses. The sanitary-veterinary control was probably avoided. It is unlikely that the merchandise was put on sale. We are in contact with the antifraud department and if the merchandise reached some shelves, it will be removed,” the minister stated in a press conference.
In his turn, the president of the National Food Safety Authority (NSVSA), Vladimir Manastireanu mentioned that investigators have not sought, for now, the support of ANSVSA in this case. When asked about the group which allegedly sold spoiled meet, he added that such products cannot go on shelf in a fiscalised commerce, and if “accidents” happen, that merchandise has modified colour and taste.
Also, Prime Minister Victor Ponta on Wednesday, at the beginning of the Government meting, welcomed the continuation of the fight against tax evasion and against illegalities committed in the foodstuffs sector.
Tax evasion with meat reaches 30-40 pc of the market
Tax evasion in the meat sector reaches 30-40 pc of the market, down from more than 50 pc two years ago, and the merchandise that goes to warehouses without documents is difficult to control by sanitary-veterinary authorities, the Minister of Agriculture, Daniel Constantin added.
The minister said that, when one speaks about tax evasion and freight that enters the country or reaches certain warehouses without documents, the sanitary-veterinary control is much easier to avoid by those who do tax evasion. He added that the solutions to prevent spoiled food from reaching shelves are to strengthen the controls and to fight the tax evasion. “The fact that today we saw a whole ring exposed to light is a result of the fact that authorities do their job,” Constantin mentioned.
Romanians, cheated by the producers of traditional products
In a different move, during the same conference, Agriculture minister Daniel Constantin said that many of the 4,400 traditional Romanian products, classified as such under the old legislation, were not really traditional, so in many cases the Romanians that preferred this kind of products have been cheated. “Using the old legislation, we had reached the point where we had 4,402 traditional products, largely obtained also in industrial system, without careful controls of the quantity, of the method being used to obtain a traditional product,” Constantin said. He added that Romanian consumers have a higher appetite for traditional or bio products. After the recent enactment of the new law, the products certified as traditional will truly be traditional, Constantin mentioned. Under the new norms, the quantity of a traditional food product produced each day will be capped at 400 kg or litres, except for pastry and bread, which may be produced at a maximum rate of 800 kg a day.