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Joint operation against VAT fraudsters active in Germany & Italy

The Hague, 27 July 2011

On 26 July, judicial authorities and police officers in Germany and Italy ran a joint operation, supported and co-ordinated by Eurojust, against a criminal network committing VAT fraud and money laundering offences through vehicle trades.

The operation was agreed during a co-ordination meeting held at Eurojust on 20 July with the participation of all the parties involved and under the supervision of the Italian National Desk. During the co-ordination meeting, the execution of the operation was carefully planned.

The case originated from a Letter of Request (LoR) from the Public Prosecution Office of Ansbach, Germany, to the Court of Appeal of Bologna, Italy, regarding an investigation of money laundering activities carried out by Italian nationals residing in Germany. The Italian judge asked for the assistance of Eurojust to solve some problems related to the execution of the LoR and so, in April, the Eurojust Italian Desk opened a case towards Germany.

Under article 6 of the revised Eurojust Decision, the Italian National Member at Eurojust requested the Public Prosecution Office of Ferrara, which was territorially competent for investigating the tax fraud case, to open an autonomous investigation. Following this request and a co-ordination meeting at Eurojust on 19 May, a parallel investigation was opened by the Public Prosecution Office of Ferrara for criminal association aimed at committing fraud and especially VAT fraud.

To support the simultaneous execution of the operation in the two Member States involved, a Co-ordination Centre was set up at Eurojust with dedicated telephone lines.

Starting at 6:30 in the morning and for the entire day, the Co-ordination Centre at Eurojust allowed real-time exchange of information and evidence between police and judicial authorities in the Member States involved, and immediate analysis of the data collected. The Co-ordination Centre was run by the Eurojust Italian Desk and supported by the Eurojust Case Analysis Unit.

As a result of the simultaneous operation, the main suspect was arrested in Germany and charged with money laundering. In addition, a large number of searches were conducted in both Member States (5 in Germany and 20 in Italy) at the residences of the main suspects and at the offices of the companies involved in the illicit traffic, some of which were fictitious. In addition to many pieces of documentary evidence about the investigated crimes, several computers and approximately €300,000 in assets were seized, and a German bank account was frozen.

Eurojust was the catalyst behind the outcome of the joint operation and will continue to follow the developments of the two parallel investigations to ensure the best results at judicial level.

For more information, please contact:

Mr Joannes THUY, Spokesperson - Head of Press & PR Service
EUROJUST, Maanweg 174, 2516 AB, The Hague, the Netherlands
Tel +31 70 412 5508
E-mail: jthuy[AT]eurojust.europa.eu