I am curious what images come to your mind when you hear the word "smugglers" enter into a conversation. Do you envision Captain Jack Sparrow stumbling toward you, asking why all the rum is gone? Or recall the last article you read on all of the drugs making their way past border patrol and into our country? Or if you're an Agatha Christie fan, maybe you remember wondering whether or not Valerie Hobhouse was indeed a part of that smuggling ring on Hickory Road...
I am fairly certain that I can tell you what image does NOT come to your mind. Garlic.
Yes, I mean the fundamental ingredient in many favorite recipes, including my favorite spread on baguettes (which, since the masked bandits have been rounded up, I have appropriately renamed Oven Roasted Garlic Smugglers).
Garlic, it seems, has been quite a hot ticket amid the European Union for the past few years, but as breaking news will tell you, the criminal masterminds are now safely behind bars. You can rest more easily now, I'm sure.
In cracking the case, Swedish prosecutors have named two British fellows as the leaders of a smuggling ring that has made millions of euros by bringing Chinese garlic into Norway, then smuggling it to neighboring Sweden and distributing it from there.
In order to answer the most immediate question that comes to mind, I should let you know that although Transylvania (as a part of Romania) has been admitted into the European Union, reports do not indicate a resurgence of vampires roaming the countryside. It just couldn't be that simple.
Instead, the reason behind the scandalous endeavor can be traced back to a being much more complex and dangerous: the politician.
This is not the first garlic smuggling ring to be brought to justice, you see. Just last month, another British man was jailed for 6 years based on his involvement with bringing Chinese garlic into the country illegally; in March of 2012 an Irish lad was implicated in a similar situation. Millions of euros were made by each of these ringleaders by smuggling bulbs into the country and avoiding...you guessed it, the "T" word. Taxes.
I am fairly certain that the very first euros printed may not have even been distributed from the mint before the Garlic Tax was imposed. 9.6% duty on all imported garlic, came the decree, and the smuggling rings were born. Politicians will tell you that the tax was imposed in order to promote "buying locally," rather than from the looming garlic giant: China. Come on, everyone knows you saw an easy way to make a buck. Well, euro.
You see, Chinese garlic accounts for 80% of the world's production, with an annual export of over 23 billion pounds of garlic. So obviously, based on the law of supply and demand, it's pretty cheap. None of the countries in the European Union even make the top 10 list for garlic suppliers in the world. Perfect set up for an import tax. Even better set up for a smuggler.
I have 4 points to make here, in random order, with regards to the world of garlic:
1) I am wondering if the lawmakers within the European Union remember the Molasses Act of 1733, when British Parliament imposed an import tax for the New England colonists. New Englanders needed molasses in order to make their rum, you see, but there wasn't any being produced here...et voila! Instant tax for the colonists. That one didn't go over so well here on our shores, and resulted in a couple of wars and a little paper we like to call The Declaration of Independence. History can really teach us things, if we're willing to listen.
2) It is interesting to note that while many of these ringleaders are based in the UK, the UK as a whole is also in hot water with the European Union for "mistakenly" claiming that the fresh garlic being imported from China was actually frozen garlic, which is taxed at a much lower rate. The EU is looking for somewhere around 15 million British pounds to make up the difference in tax rates. I am wondering if the EU should revisit the legislation that imposed this tax to begin with. It seems like not everyone agreed with it from the get-go.
3) Totally off subject, but worth noting...Gilroy, California has proclaimed that it is "The Garlic Capital of the World." While that's a very nice title, the ENTIRE United States accounts for only 1.4% of the world's garlic production. I feel like maybe there should be a professional association that hands out titles like that. Because SAYING that you are the capital of the world and actually BEING the capital of the world are two very different things. Nonetheless, every July all of Gilroy comes together for the Gilroy Garlic Festival, just to celebrate being the non-capital Capital of the World.
4) Garlic doesn't really get rid of vampires. Or politicians. It's just a myth.
click here to try some Oven Roasted Garlic Smugglers