Police in Italy have seized piles of cash, a Ferrari supercar and collections of luxury watches in raids to break up a EUR-58-million VAT fraud.
The investigation – a joint operation between police and the European Public Prosecutor’s Office – resulted in 18 arrests all over Italy.
Footage of the raids show police finding a huge haul of euro banknotes in one of the properties raided.
Another scene shows a collection of luxury Rolex watches.
And other clips show police officers driving off a Ferrari sports car and a luxury Range Rover 4WD.
Police say the fraudsters laundered their cash through cryptocurrency deals and luxury property.
Newsflash obtained a statement from the Guardia di Finanza, Italy’s finance cops, on Thursday, 26th January.
They say the raids were the result of a coordinated effort between the authorities in “Padua, Rovigo, Venice, Vicenza, Lecco, Bologna, Milan and Rome”.
Police say the suspects are being investigated for criminal association, VAT fraud and money laundering, among other possible charges.
Officials began their investigation when they found companies selling printing products at much cheaper prices than any rivals could match.
The Guardia di Finanza explained: “The investigations, conducted under the direction of the European Public Prosecutor Office (EPPO) of the Venice office and carried out by the specialists of the Economic and Financial Police Unit and of the Group of the South Tyrolean capital, began in 2020 in the sector of the trade of stationery and consumables for printing equipment.
“In this context, the price charged for the sale of these products, particularly convenient and not in line with market prices, required specific in-depth investigations which revealed the existence of a complex fraud, concocted by two Paduan entrepreneurs promoters of a criminal association made up of over 30 suspects who, making use of a network of companies located mainly in the Triveneto area and in numerous countries of the European Union, products, systematically omitting the payment of the VAT due.”
They said that the “VAT evasion mechanism” had allowed “the two entrepreneurs and their main supporters to resell the imported products at extremely advantageous prices, by altering the principles of fair competition on the market”.
Police say the suspects, who have not been named, defrauded the state and added that they had “set up additional ‘safe’ companies, with the intention of shielding important assets”.
These included, “among other things, a Ferrari, numerous other supercars and prestigious real estate” that was “acquired using the profits from the fraud, estimated at over EUR 58 million” (GBP 51 million).
The Guardia di Finanza said that the “laundering activity was aimed at profitable investments, both in Italy and abroad, in the tourism sector, in the catering sector, in the real estate sector, and also for the purchase of crypto-currencies.”
They said that the investigation had lasted two years and had been the result of a collaboration between “the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, Slovakia, the Netherlands and Germany”, under the umbrella of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Investigations are ongoing but so far, the authorities have announced that three people have been detained in prison, eight people are subject to house arrest and the others have seen their freedom of movement and activities restricted.
The authorities also said that they had seized the shares of eight companies and that they are carrying out a further 30 searches of premises involving about 100 of their officers.