Massive metal waste fraud in Italy halted with Eurojust support

16 March 2021|PRESS RELEASE

National flags of IT, SK, and HU, and Eurojust logoAt the request of the Italian judicial authorities, Eurojust supported an action day involving Slovakia and Hungary to disrupt years of environmental crime and 130 million EUR worth of fraud with the sale of waste metal. Coordinated by the Agency, 15 suspects were arrested in Italy and Slovakia for the illegal trafficking of metal waste, money laundering and the issuance of fake invoices and documents. In total, 60 places were searched and computer equipment, electronic devices and documents have been seized.

The suspects allegedly bought and sold waste metal since 2015, which is illegal according to EU legislation. They produced false certificates and invoices, pretending the waste was scrap metal, which is allowed for trade if declarations of conformity are provided. These declarations are necessary to trace the scrap metal to its origins. The fraud led to estimated illegal profits of at least EUR 130 million.

According to the Italian Guardia di Finanza, over 18 000 tonnes of metal waste was illegally sold and processed in regularly operating foundries since at least 2018. This led to possible health risks and disturbed market competition for legally operating businesses. Fake certificates, declarations and invoices were provided via a string of fictitious companies in Slovakia, Hungary, Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan, China and Malaysia. These false invoices enabled the purchase of the metal ‘off the books’, pretending it had come from abroad.

Scrap metal magnetInvestigations into the illegal operations started in 2018, following a suspicious transaction between a company in Slovakia and an enterprise in Turin, which allegedly involved abnormal amounts of money. The anti-mafia district directorate of the Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPO) of Turin and Economic and Financial Police Unit subsequently unravelled the large-scale fraud with documents and invoices.

Eurojust coordinated the organisation of the action day, assisted with the execution of European Investigation Orders to Hungary and Slovakia, and provided support to the arrest of one suspect in Slovakia.

The operation on the ground was rolled out by the Turin PPO, the Guardia di Finanza in Turin and Naples, where the suspects had set up a fake subsidiary company. In Slovakia, additional support was provided by the Regional PPO Bratislava and District Police Bratislava IV - Department of the Criminal Police. Assistance in Hungary was given by the Budapest Metropolitan Chief Prosecutor’s Office, Department of Financial Crimes, the Police Headquarters of Budapest and Zala County and Zalaszentgrót Police.