HM Customs, now merged with the Inland Revenue, claims it has known all about the great "missing trader" fraud for five years.
Yet the wider world heard nothing of it until 2003. By then it had reached the point where fraudsters were importing and exporting such monstrous volumes of mobile phones and computer bits - any saleable small objects with a high value - that they showed up in the official trade figures.
Now it has happened again. The fraud, hitherto confined to EU countries, seems to have shifted to the wider world. British exports of goods to spots outside the EU jumped by £1.1 billion, or 15 per cent, between May and June.
Terrific news, particularly if you are one of the exporters - except that it is not how the world works. Nearly a third of the increase went to Dubai. True, there is a lot of oil money about nowadays and some prominent citizens of Dubai have an expensive taste in horseflesh. But not that expensive.
The one certainty yesterday was that the Government statisticians have stumbled on something that the Customs knew nothing about, or else knew and failed to stop.
This is an organisation that proudly claims to have descended on 85,000 businesses in a clampdown on VAT and scooped up an extra £ 500 million. It raised another £ 32 million by requiring 3,700 previously secretive traders to register for VAT. That was nearly £6,000 from each business and £8,600 per trader.
Other taxpayers should be grateful. It is that much less for us to pay. One wonders, just the same. If the Customs had applied anything like that energy and persistence to the pursuit of "missing traders", surely there could be nothing like £1.1 billion worth of apparently VAT-shy exports slurping round the world in a single month.