Swedish state prosecutors claim to have cracked one of Europe's more bizarre if lucrative smuggling rackets in which two British citizens stand accused of illegally importing €10 million ($15.5 million) worth of cut-price Chinese garlic into the European Union via Norway.

The EU imposes a 9.6 per cent duty on imported foreign garlic in an attempt to prevent the continent's growers from being driven out of business by Chinese farmers.

But the duty, which came into force in 2001, has led to a surge in illicit imports. Police in Britain, Ireland, Austria and Poland arrested smugglers for illegally importing at least €3 million worth of garlic into the EU last year alone.

Yesterday, Swedish prosecutors in Gothenburg said they had uncovered a massive smuggling operation involving the illicit import of 10,000 tonnes of Chinese garlic worth an estimated €10 million for distribution and sale throughout the EU.


International arrest warrants have been issued for two British citizens suspected of masterminding the smuggling racket.

Last month, a London-based merchant was sentenced to six years imprisonment for smuggling thousands of kilos of Chinese garlic into Britain, dodging an estimated £2 million in import duty.

- Independent