The German Tax Office for Investigation and Criminal Matters (Finanzamt für Fahndung und Strafsachen) and the Italian Finance Corps (Guardia di Finanza), supported by Europol, dismantled an organised crime group involved in VAT fraud through the manipulation of cash registers.
The action day on 21 September 2021 led to:
- 93 house searches
- 23 individuals facing criminal proceedings
- Seizure of cash registers, a server and € 275 000 in cash
‘Tuned’ cash registers hid income
The joint operation, supported by Europol, targeted a criminal network selling software solutions for cash registers enabling businesses to manipulate their daily sales records. Cash-intensive businesses such as restaurants were able to use these ‘tuned’ registers to manipulate their income and diminish their output VAT and corporate tax liability. The customers, mainly Italians established in Germany, acquired both the hardware (cash registers and back offices) and the software from an Italian supplier, who had developed this product. This IT solution enabled the businesses to access the database of the cash register securely and decide how much of their daily income to hide and how much to declare to the tax authorities. More than 300 owners of Italian restaurants across Germany have allegedly bought this solution, which is priced significantly higher than an ordinary cash register that cannot manipulate financial records.
Analysis and technical expertise to support investigations
Europol supported the operational activities, facilitated the exchange of information and provided analytical support. During the action day, Europol deployed two experts to Italy to cross-check in real time operational information against Europol’s databases to provide leads to investigators in the field. Europol also deployed a forensic expert to Italy to provide technical support to take down the server.
Europol recently created the European Financial and Economic Crime Centre (EFECC) to increase synergies between economic and financial investigations and to strengthen its ability to support law enforcement authorities in effectively combating this major criminal threat.