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Swiss close in on Italian vegetable fraud

Berne (Reuters) - The Swiss authorities are closing in on a smuggling operation involving illegal transport of vegetables, the Swiss Federal tariff authority and the Swiss federal finance ministry said last night.

"From 1994 to 1996, various firms smuggled 2,165 tons of vegetables worth an estimated 3m Swiss francs [pounds 1.25m] from Italy into Switzerland," the authorities said. The illegal operation is alleged to involve 15 vegetable wholesale companies in Switzerland, four Italian suppliers and a large cold-storage transport firm.

"Investigations are near completion. Import restrictions and duty regulations were violated," the authorities said.

Vegetables involved included potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, beans, onions, endive, cauliflower and leeks.

In some cases the foodstuffs were found to be falsely labelled as oranges or lemons, which attract less duty.