Norway has an agreement to export fish to the EU, duty free, but only if the fish are clearly of Norwegian origin. Danish customs and excise raised doubts about the origin of part of the Norwegian fish exports. Up to date, neither the Norwegian fish exporters nor the Norwegian customs and excise have been able to confirm or deny the origin of the fish on paper. This means that the Danish fish importer Chrisfish Hanstholm ApS is threatened with bankruptcy after getting a demand of DKr3.6m for duty from the Danish tax authorities. Around 50 other Danish fish companies can expect duty demands running into millions of kroner around the end of this year.

Danish Tax Minister Frode Sørensen has asked his Norwegian finance minister colleague Karl Eirik Schjøtt-Pedersen to investigate the Norwegian customs and excise's handling of the case. Civil servant in the Danish tax ministry, Peter Loft, has written to the general director of the EU's tax and duty department, Michel Vanden Abeele, to investigate the extent of the errors made by Norwegian authorities in fish exports to Denmark after 1997.

By Penny Leese, correspondent