Swedes, Norwegians pounce on Chinese garlic smuggler

BRUSSELS Wed Jul 7, 2010 11:52am EDT

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Nordic customs officials have arrested a truck driver after he tried to illegally import 28 tons of Chinese garlic into the European Union.

The driver was intercepted last month as he drove the pungent truckload from Norway, which is outside the EU and where garlic is exempt from customs' duties, into Sweden, where garlic is subject to a 9.6 percent EU-wide duty.

Smuggling of cheaply produced Chinese garlic into the EU is on the rise, with around 1,200 tons brought into the 27-nation bloc via Norway since 2009, according to the European Anti-Fraud Office, known as OLAF.

"The interception of the lorry was the result of a carefully prepared initiative coordinated by OLAF," the EU said in a statement. "This action came about due to the excellent cooperation provided by Norwegian and Swedish customs."

China produces about 75 percent of the world's garlic, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, far too much for domestic consumption alone, meaning producers have to seek out markets elsewhere in the world.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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