Today, a coordinated action by law enforcement and prosecution authorities from Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Belgium, Spain, Poland, the Czech Republic and Switzerland, supported by Europol and Eurojust, took down the masterminds behind a criminal network responsible for defrauding EU citizens of approximately EUR 300 million in tax revenues via a sophisticated carousel fraud scheme. The action led to the arrest of 14 individuals. More than 40 searches were conducted.
Today’s action, initiated by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Augsburg and the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office in Germany, was about capitalising on the significant and lengthy work undertaken so far by a dedicated team of experts. Uncovering the masterminds behind these gangs and understanding their modus operandi are two of the main challenges in such complex large-scale fraud investigations.
This joint action, called Operation VERTIGO 2, is part of a VAT fraud investigation. A joint investigation team (JIT) was formed by the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Europol and Eurojust, with partial funding from Eurojust. The advantages of the JIT tool were evident, particularly during the latter stages of the investigation, as actions could be requested in a simplified manner.
Building upon the success of a previous action day in March and several bilateral and multilateral coordination meetings held at Eurojust, this action day involved more than 250 law enforcement officers all over Europe and focused on the arrest of key targets. Law enforcement and prosecution authorities from the Member States involved, together with experts from Europol and Eurojust, worked closely from a coordination centre at Eurojust in The Hague. Europol deployed a mobile office to facilitate real-time information exchange and cross-match analysis of the data collected.
Strong collaboration at an early stage of this investigation enabled Member States’ investigation teams to identify the main players and to carry out actions across national borders.
‘Value Added Tax fraud is not a victimless crime; such theft of staggering sums of money, by organised criminal gangs, is taken directly from the citizens of the European Union. It deprives our people of essential infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools and public services, which should be funded by the proper collection of this revenue. The authorities of the Member States, fully supported by Europol and Eurojust, have demonstrated that by effectively co-operating with each other the criminal networks can be successfully dismantled. Europol will not tolerate the existence of such groups operating in the EU. The success of Operation VERTIGO 2 shows that there is no hiding place for those who organise this criminality’, said Chris Perryman, Senior Specialist in carousel fraud at Europol.
‘Today’s successes would not have been possible without the extraordinary commitment demonstrated by prosecutors and investigators and the extensive involvement of Eurojust and Europol over such a long period of time. These factors produced the necessary high level of close international cooperation, which led to the dismantling of the criminal organisation and to the arrests of the masterminds behind the criminal activity’, commented Mr Michael Rothärmel, Assistant at the German Desk of Eurojust and Chair of today’s coordination centre.
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