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The Hague, 21 January 2015
Yesterday, a coordination centre at Eurojust supported an international action day against a criminal
network involved in large-scale VAT carousel fraud of scrap metal as well as money laundering. The massive fraud was perpetrated by companies issuing fake invoices amounting to approximately EUR 35 million.
Searches of homes and premises, seizures and arrests were carried out in Italy, Slovenia, Hungary and Romania, starting in the early morning hours.
The events leading to today’s joint action began in September 2012, when a Slovenian prosecutor in Nova Gorica informed Eurojust about a money laundering case in which a preliminary investigation was being carried out by the District Prosecution Office of Nova Gorica. Links were established to a complex ongoing investigation being conducted in Italy, coordinated by the Public Prosecution Office of Brescia and carried out by the Guardia di Finanza of Brescia.
Three coordination meetings followed at Eurojust’s premises in The Hague, during which suggestions regarding the coordination and concentration of the investigations were made by Eurojust. Participants agreed that Italy would lead the criminal investigations, and that a joint action day would occur in January 2015.
All concerned parties agreed, at a very early stage, to conduct activities at national level, making efforts both to avoid possible conflicts of jurisdiction and to adversely affect the ongoing investigations in the other Member States.
Thanks to the work done by Eurojust, additional links with Croatia, Hungary and Romania were discovered, which provided insight into the extent of the criminal activities conducted by the criminal network and allowed the judicial authorities to adapt their strategy.
Today’s coordination centre was set up on request of the national authorities involved and run by the Eurojust Italian Desk, in close cooperation with the Slovenian, Hungarian and Romanian Desks, and supported by Eurojust’s Case Analysis Unit.
The coordination centre facilitated the real-time exchange of information, resolution of urgent judicial issues and transmission of additional official documents urgently needed to perform additional searches.
Figures at a glance:
- Number of premises searched in Italy, Slovenia, Hungary and Romania: 60
- Assets seized: EUR 1 million; important documentation
- Number of arrests: 3
- Number of police officers involved: Italy: 103 (including the use of sniffer dogs to detect the presence of cash); Romania: 17; Slovenia: 7; Hungary: 6
At the conclusion of the successful action day, the involved National Desks at Eurojust made a joint statement: ‘Cooperation among the parties was smooth and extremely constructive, leading to the preparation for yesterday’s action day. The operational and administrative support provided by Eurojust from the beginning proved to be essential for the coordination of the activities. The early exchange of information by the national authorities involved, as required by Article 13 of the Eurojust Decision, was crucial to the successful dismantling of this international criminal network, as was the quick reaction of all concerned parties.’
Carousel fraud involves multiple businesses providing false documentation and shipping real or imaginary goods or commodities and services imported VAT-free from country to country. VAT is claimed from the local government at each stop. In the end, the goods are sold, often on the black market, and the national treasuries lose millions of Euros in bogus VAT claims. The same goods or commodities can make several rounds, thus earning the name carousel fraud.
For further information on carousel and acquisition fraud, see Eurojust News.