Bulgarian connection as EU-wide VAT fraud organised crime group busted

Bulgarian authorities assisted in a bust of an organised crime group involved in pan-European VAT fraud and money laundering, with Bulgarian bank accounts among those money was funnelled into by the crime group, according to a statement by European police agency Europol on May 4 2018.

The damage caused to the EU economy due to the VAT fraud reached 60 million euro. The fraudulent schemes affected several countries, including Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Spain.

The crime group was dismantled in a joint operation led by the Spanish National Police, together with the Spanish Tax Agency and supported by Europol and Eurojust.

Between April 18 and 20, a total of 58 suspects were arrested in Belgium, Germany, Portugal and Spain and 101 premises were searched in various EU countries. As a result, law enforcement seized 52 luxury cars, numerous documents, 400 000 euro in cash, IT material and one weapon.

The investigation began in 2015 when Spanish authorities were alerted to a criminal organisation specialised in VAT fraud and money laundering, Europol said. The group carried out or simulated imports and purchases of electronic goods, both real and fake, which were sold online.

The criminal organisation was composed mainly of Italian, Portuguese and Spanish nationals and was allegedly managed from Spain by two men; father and son – Spanish nationals of Indian roots – believed to have been operating for more than nine years across Europe.

The group had a network of more than 100 companies (most of them shell companies registered under the name of frontmen) across Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the US.

The network also owned a production centre to create false invoices to perform VAT fraud on electronic goods and also on the import of luxury vehicles below invoice price.Investigations revealed that the group issued false invoices for a value of more than 250 million euro in three years.

Investigations also revealed that the money was layered among the large network of shell companies before being funnelled to Bulgarian or Hungarian bank accounts. In particular, the organisation moved more than 140 million euroin two years through two Hungarian shell companies.

The group then used different methods to integrate its profits, such as investments in real estate and real businesses, or the purchase and sale of luxury vehicles. The final destinations of the proceeds of crime were Italy, Spain and the US, Europol said.

(Photo: Frank Schwichtenberg)



The Sofia Globe staff

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