EUROPOL, the EU’s international law enforcement agency, worked with authorities across five countries to arrest 22 suspects belonging to an organised crime group which swindled over €26.5 million from the Spanish state budget.
Simultaneous raids across 24 properties on April 28 flushed out the gang, operating in Spain, Holland and Belgium.
Investigators seized 16 high-end vehicles and properties worth an estimated €1.3 million.
Additionally, 12 bank accounts were frozen, used by 33 different financial entities.
Sources say the gang had been operating since the end of 2019, using a sophisticated infrastructure to evade paying millions of euros in tax.
The fraudsters would use fake companies in Spain, Slovakia, Romania, Belgium and the Netherlands to trade with each other across the borders.
However, nothing was delivered to the companies in other countries, and goods remained in the same Member State.
As transactions within the same country warrant a VAT levy of some sort, the pretence of buying from abroad, the VAT payment was avoided.
In this way, the Spanish tax authorities were defrauded in excess of €26.5 million.
Spanish authorities worked with Europol and Eurojust to coordinate European Investigation Orders (EIOs) and freezing certificates for bank accounts.
Europol appointed investigators in all five countries to help with procedural requirements and agree on a clear way forward.
The following countries took part in this operation:
- Spain: Civil Guard (Guardia Civil), National Police (Policía Nacional), Tax Agency (Agencia Tributaria)
- The Netherlands: Fiscal Information and Investigation Service (FIOD)
- Belgium: Federal Prosecution Office
- Slovakia: PPO Bratislava
Who are EUROPOL?
The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, better known under the name Europol, formerly the European Police Office and Europol Drugs Unit, is the law enforcement agency of the EU formed in 1998.
It handles criminal intelligence and combats serious international organised crime and terrorism through cooperation between competent authorities of EU member states.
The Agency has no executive powers, and its officials are not entitled to arrest suspects or act without prior approval from competent authorities in the member states.
Seated in The Hague, it comprised 1,065 staff in 2016.