European police have arrested 18 people suspected of involvement in a continent-wide tax evasion scheme that swindled hundreds of millions of dollars.

The clampdown targeted a VAT fraud gang "responsible for defrauding EU citizens of approximately €320m [$350 million]", Eurojust and Europol said in a combined statement in The Hague on Thursday.

The syndicate "used a sophisticated infrastructure including buffer companies ... to facilitate money laundering and crime-related money transfers spread over various members states and a number of third states".

Detectives in Austria, Belgium, Great Britain, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and Sweden carried out searches in a major crackdown on the crime syndicate on Wednesday.

In total, police conducted 38 searches and seized more than $697,000. The operation involved more than 200 officers.


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"Thanks to a high level of close international cooperation, we contributed to preventing this group from hiding behind national borders and continuing to defraud EU citizens of huge amounts of tax money," said Germany's member of Eurojust, Gabriele Launhardt, who chaired the operation's coordination.

Police also executed three assets freezing and seizure orders, including "several" Swiss accounts.

Source: Agencies