60m-euro fraud exposure was a genuine Dream

MORE than 50 people were arrested and 52 luxury cars seized in raids led by Spain’s National Police force and the Tax Agency.

This major offensive, named Operation Dream, also recovered 400,000 euros in cash, IT equipment and one weapon in the raids, which stretched across Europe and were supported by Europol and Eurojust.

More than 100 homes or premises were searched, and 58 suspects were arrested in Belgium, Germany, Portugal and Spain in Operation Dream.

Authorities from Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy and Romania were also involved in the investigations into the fraud, estimated to have cost the EU economy 60 million euros. This huge probe began in 2015, when Spanish authorities were alerted to a criminal gang, specialising in VAT fraud and money-laundering.

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. It was, allegedly, managed from Spain by a father and son, Spanish nationals of Indian origin, who are believed to have been operating for more than nine years across Europe.

The group had a network of more than 100 companies  across Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the US.

The network also owned a production centre, creating false invoices to perform VAT fraud on electronic goods, as well as on the import of luxury vehicles below invoice price.

Investigations revealed that the group issued false invoices, adding up over 250 million euros in three years. They also discovered 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 140m euros in two years, via 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 crime proceeds were Italy, Spain and the US. Europol organised two operational meetings in Madrid and The Hague, and attended one co-ordination meeting at Eurojust .

On the day the action began, they also provided on-the-spot support by deploying an analyst and a specialist to Spain, equipped with a mobile office and a Universal Forensic Extraction Device.

This allowed real-time information exchange, along with cross-checks of the data gathered against Europol databases.

Following the operation, Jari Liukku, Head of Europol’s European Serious and Organised Crime Centre, said: “Staggering sums of money are being taken, directly, from European Union citizens, by organised crime groups.

“It is depriving us all of essential services and infrastructure, such as security, health, education or justice, which should be funded by the proper collection of this revenue.”

He added: “By its very nature, this is an international, cross-border offence, requiring a co-ordinated approach between Member States’ police services, customs administrations and tax authorities.

“The impressive results of Operation Dreams show us, once more, what can be achieved when law-enforcement agencies work together, with the support of Europol and Eurojust.” But he also warned: “Despite the various efforts made, the threat of MTIC fraud remains significant.”

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Posted by on May 11 2018. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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