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Anti-Fraud Regulations

Volume 405: debated on Monday 19 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the nature of the support intended by Commission Regulation (E2) 44/2003, 10th January, OJ L7 Vol 46, 11 th January, with particular reference to combating fraud. [112495]

This regulation relates to the export refund system—a CAP market support measure intended to allow EU traders to sell competitively outside the Community. Under the export refund system, eligibility to refund is, in many cases, established when the exporter provides proof that the goods have been imported into a particular destination. In the UK, the export refund system is administered by the Rural Payments Agency which is an Executive Agency of DEFRA.Investigations by the Commission's anti-fraud arm, OLAF, indicated widespread irregularities in the import of beef, veal and pigmeat products into the territory of the Russian Federation. These irregularities were thought to be attributable to the unreliability of documentation produced by the Russian customs authorities.

Consequently, OLAF brokered an agreement with the Russian authorities. This was partly intended as an anti-fraud measure and partly in recognition of the problems EU traders were experiencing in obtaining proof of import.

This agreement was enacted by Commission Regulation (EC) No 2584/2000. It established a mechanism for communicating information on the movement of goods between the EU and the Russian Federation. The mechanism made it possible for EU authorities to trace exports by road of the products concerned to the Russian Federation and, where appropriate, detect cases in which the requirements for the payment of export refund were not met.

The regulation was amended by Commission Regulation (EC) No 44/2003. This extends the agreement, from 1 June 2003, to cover all types of transport. More importantly, it introduces a provision whereby a confirmation from the Russian authorities that the goods have arrived may be regarded as the primary proof of import for the payment.of export refund. Prior to the amendment, such a response could be considered only in conjunction with other supporting evidence. This new provision should ease the administrative burden on EU exporters and authorities while at the same time ensuring effective control of the export refund system.

The UK trade has been kept fully informed of developments in this regard via the Rural Payments Agency's Notices to Traders 1/01 and 36/03 (pertaining to Regulations 2584/2000 and 44/2003 respectively).