Europe’s largest VAT fraud network falls


Madrid (EFE) a company was registered in Barcelona and two addresses and a law firm in Marbella,

As stated in a statement from the General Directorate of the Civil Guard, Operation ADMIRAL, coordinated by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, involves the dismantling of the largest VAT fraud investigated to date in the EU, through a complex network in which they are 9,000 legal persons and more than 600 natural persons from different countries have been involved.

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office coordinated the operation in simultaneous collaboration with Belgium, Cyprus, Slovakia, Spain, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania, countries in which many searches have been carried out in businesses and homes.

Specifically in Spain, the actions were carried out by different specialized units of the Civil Guard in the provinces of Malaga and Barcelona.

A total of four entries and searches were carried out in a company in Barcelona and in two houses and a law firm in Marbella (Málaga), in which two high-end vehicles and various commercial documents were intervened.

nearly two years of research

The investigation began in April 2021 after the Portuguese tax authorities in Coimbra detected suspected VAT fraud by a company selling mobile phones, tablets, headphones and other electronic devices.

After the European Public Prosecutor’s Office took office in June 2021, and based on the new legislative framework, it took over the Portuguese investigation.

Thanks to international cooperation, European Prosecutors, European Delegated Prosecutors, financial fraud analysts from the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and Europol, as well as the national authorities concerned, have gradually established links between the company initially indicted in the Portugal and nearly 9,000 other entities and more than 600 natural persons in different countries.

Eighteen months after receiving the initial report, the EPPO has identified the largest VAT carousel fraud investigated to date in the EU.

Europol headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands. EFE/EPA/Jerry Lampen

The criminal activities investigated extend to the 22 Member States which recognize the competence of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, as well as Hungary, Ireland, Poland and Sweden, and to third countries such as Albania, China, Mauritius, Serbia, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United States.

The plot was made up of a complex network of companies that acted as suppliers of electronic devices and others that claimed VAT refunds from national tax authorities once the devices were sold to individuals through platforms. of e-commerce.

Subsequently, they channeled the profits from these sales abroad before disbanding (trout companies or traders disappeared).
These activities would not have been possible without the participation of several highly skilled organized crime groups, each of which performs specific functions in the network, which would have allowed them to evade detection for years.

A very lucrative business

According to Europol data, VAT carousel fraud or Missing Trader Intra-Community Fraud (MTIC) is the crime that yields the most profits to organized crime in the EU, with a cost of around 50,000 million euros. euros per year for the Member States.

Since this type of fraud is a cross-border criminal phenomenon by definition, once it reaches a level of complexity comparable to that investigated in Operation ADMIRAL, it is almost impossible to detect.

The action of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office has made it possible to investigate this organization in a comprehensive way throughout Europe, relying on national and European tools and databases and with the support of the capacity for analysis and investigation by the Central Office of the said Public Prosecutor’s Office, as well as Europol and the various national authorities concerned.


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