European police arrest 18 over $350m tax-fraud scheme

Crime syndicate used sophisticated infrastructure, including buffer firms, in continent-wide tax-evasion operation.

    More than 200 police officers conducted 38 searches and seized more than $697,000 [Getty Images]
    More than 200 police officers conducted 38 searches and seized more than $697,000 [Getty Images]

    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.


    READ MORE: Europol uncover major online child abuse network


    "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


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    We visualised 1.2 million votes at the UN since 1946. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the world today?

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.