A MULTINATIONAL gang that imported dangerous diesel to Spain from Eastern Europe has been busted, resulting in 22 arrests.
The alleged fraudsters, from Spain, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia and Algeria were central to a complex organisation involving another 200 individuals and companies.
Valencia’s Tax Agency and the Guardia Civil revealed that crimes include alleged tax offences, money laundering and belonging to a criminal organization.
During the multiple arrests last week, four ‘gas centers’ were dismantled, three in the province of Valencia, and another in Murcia.
Over 28,500 gallons of modified diesel were seized, €1.8m held in overseas bank accounts, €45,000 in cash, 14 distribution trucks, three high-end vehicles, 19 mobile phones, 12 computers and 10 buildings.
Year-long investigators detected that the gang acquired fuel in various East European countries, modified its technical composition to avoid taxes, and then sold it to service stations as ‘white label’ or simply ‘low cost’.
In all, more than 30 independent gas stations in the province of Valencia sold the diesel, which was considered such low quality that it was dangerous for vehicle’s engines.
The tax benefit to the gang was twofold: firstly the non-payment of the Special Tax on Hydrocarbons, thanks to the fuel’s modification.
Secondly, the extra taxes paid by consumers were believed to have been pocketed and not declared.
In essence, the operation was defrauding both the Spanish tax system AND the consumer, as well as causing potential damage to vehicles.
The pump price of the diesel was so much lower than legitimate fuel, it made for unfair competition in the province, in a market that was already severely hit by the pandemic and lockdown restrictions.
To hide the origin and poor quality of the fuel, an extensive network of shell companies and distribution centers was established.
Sources suggest another 10 distribution centres have been identified around other regions in Spain.
Some 80 officials of the Tax Agency, Guardia Civil and other agencies combined in the swoop, last week.
The collaboration displayed by Eurojust in the execution of various seizures of bank accounts abroad was considered essential.
Investigations are ongoing and new operational actions are not ruled out after the analysis of the documentation and computer files intervened, say Guardia Civil.