| BRUSSELS, March 8
BRUSSELS, March 8 Britain should pay nearly 2
billion euros ($2.1 billion) to the European Union to cover
lost revenues to the EU budget caused by a scam involving
British imports of Chinese textiles and footwear, the EU
anti-fraud agency OLAF said on Wednesday.
The investigation body, which has no enforcement powers,
recommended the European Commission to recover the money from
A spokesman for the EU executive declined to comment on
whether the Commission will try to recover the money. A
spokesman for Britain's Revenue and Customs department, the
HMRC, said it would be challenging the OLAF calculation.
The results of the investigation were made public as Britain
prepares to begin EU divorce talks, potentially adding a new
headache for negotiators. One of the most controversial issues
in the talks will be the bill Britain will have to pay to leave
Under EU rules, Brussels has a claim on a share of taxes on
imported goods raised in its 28 member states. The proceeds go
directly to finance the EU budget.
"OLAF calculated a loss of 1.987 billion euro to the EU
budget in terms of lost customs duties due on textiles and shoes
imported from China through the UK in the period 2013-2016," the
EU agency said in a note distributed to reporters.
It said that the scam was continuing, hinting that it may
cause further damage to the EU budget and a higher bill for
In London, the HMRC spokesman said: "This is not a bill, it
is OLAF’s estimate of evaded duty, and not one that is
recognised by our experts who will be challenging OLAF on their
The amount is by far the largest ever recommended by OLAF to
be recovered. Yearly, it usually urges overall recoveries below
1 billion euros from multiple frauds. In 2015, it recommended
the recovery of 888 million euros in total, of which only 97.9
million was from customs scams.
The money recovered is usually well below what is
recommended by OLAF. In 2015, only 187 million euros were
recovered through judicial action in member states and returned
to Brussels. ($1 = 0.9482 euros)
(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio and Kylie MacLellan; Editing
by Mark Trevelyan)