The European Parliament today voted on a report calling more European cooperation to address organised crime, corruption and money-laundering in the EU.
The report calls for stronger maritime cooperation and border management to stamp out human-trafficking and the smuggling of counterfeit products, weapons and illegal drugs. It also calls for better information-sharing and coordination between national authorities to enable them to fight organised crime and confiscate criminal assets more effectively.
Catherine Bearder, Lib Dem MEP for Kent said:
"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 £4.7 billion of taxes are being lost to criminals annually in the UK.
"Moreover, up to 14,500 British jobs are being lost in manufacturing and retail because legitimate companies cannot compete with the counterfeit goods flooding our streets.
"Enhancing European cooperation will not only strengthen the ability of British police to bring organised criminals to justice, it will put hard-earned money back into the pockets of British taxpayers and create more jobs.
"The Ports in Kent are on the frontline of this fight and we need to give them the tools to properly tackle organised crime."
Commenting on the call for the formation of European Public Prosecutor's Office to tackle fraud on the EU budget, which costs over £432mn a year, Catherine said:
"The UK, as stated in the coalition agreement, has already decided that it won't be part of the European wide Public Prosecutor to prosecute criminal activity. However Liberal Democrat MEPs today supported the formation of a Prosecutor to tackle the fraud on our own EU budgets across all European member states, therefore preventing taxpayers' money from being wasted and stolen.
"The decision by the Tories and UKIP to oppose this measure smacks of hypocrisy. They like to complain 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 future proposal to widen its powers would be subject to unanimity in the European Council and could therefore be vetoed by the UK.
The full European Parliament report can be found here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=REPORT&reference=A7-2013-0307&language=EN&mode=XML
Key statistics from the report include:
- · VAT fraud generates an annual loss of revenue to the EU of €100 million
- · Illegal trafficking in cigarettes results in an annual tax loss of approximately €10 billion across the EU
- · Cybercrime is affecting millions of consumers in the EU and causing estimated annual losses of €290 billion
- · There are more than 10 million illegal weapons in circulation in Europe
- · Trafficking in human beings generates an estimated annual profit of €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
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
According to figures from the HMRC, in 2011-2012 criminals accounted for 13% of the UK's tax gap or £4.7 billion