The European Public Prosecutor’s Office, in cooperation with the law enforcement agencies of 14 Member States of the European Union, has carried out more than 200 simultaneous searches in different countries in relation to a complex VAT fraud scheme based on the sale of popular electronic products that exceeds 2,200 million euros. One of these inspections has occurred in the Law Firm Lawbird Legal Serviceslocated in the center of Marbella.
Early this Tuesday, several Civil Guard patrols were deployed on Avenida Ricardo Soriano to search this office, located in the Alfil building, and in a chalet also located in the Marbella municipality, where they carried out a house search. These inspections are part of a international macro operation baptized as Admiral carried out by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office -The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO)-.
According to sources close to the facts, the next step is to analyze all the data collected. Besides, the research continue now on the organized crime groups who are behind this plot.
The first clue came in April 2021 when the Coimbra Tax Agency (Portugal) detected that a company dedicated to the sale of mobile phones, tablets, headphones and other electronic devices would be committing VAT fraud. Two months later, the Portuguese authorities reported the case to the Prosecutor’s Office.
Although everything seemed to be in order, they decided to go further and a joint investigation was launched with European prosecutors, financial fraud analysts from the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and Europol representatives. they established connections between the suspected company in Portugalclose to 9,000 legal entities and more than 600 individuals from different countries.
After 18 months from the initial report, the Prosecutor’s Office is now bringing to light what it classifies as “the largest VAT carousel fraud ever investigated in the European Union”. And it is that criminal activities extend through the 22 member states participating in the European Public Prosecutor’s Office, as well as Hungary, Ireland, Sweden and Poland, along with third countries such as Albania, China, Mauritius, Serbia, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates United States and United States.
Beyond the magnitude of the damage, the Prosecutor’s Office highlights from this fraud “the extraordinary complexity of the business chain“. From those who acted as suppliers of electronic devices, to those who demanded VAT refunds from the national tax authorities while selling these devices online to private customers – and, subsequently, channeling the proceeds of these sales into tax havens, before disappearing themselves – even those who laundered the proceeds of this criminal activity.
According to the account of the same sources, all these activities would not have been possible without the participation of several highly skilled organized crime groups, which fulfilled specific functions in the general scheme. “They have avoided being detected for years working at a transnational level almost with an industrial logic,” they specify.
Registered office lawyer: “Our clients have been affected by the plot”
Anthony Floresone of the lawyers who works in Lawbird Legal Services, a dispatch registered by Civil Guard agents on Tuesday, told this newspaper that “17 -agents- have come to take two files.” As indicated, three of his clients, foreigners, who bought apartments through the office -specialized in real estate and financial law- have been affected, detailing that allegedly the companies in the plot have defrauded “with false invoices 530,000 euros for the purchase of these apartments on the Costa del Sol”.
According to his account, “they sent the money to these companies, they made a currency exchange and they sent the money to us, but then they said that this was a purchase of merchandise and they claimed 20% VAT in Portugal”.
In this way, Flores has explained that “a client in Morocco delivered the money to the branch of this company” in the African country, this “delivered it in France and sent us a transfer because it makes the change with the dirham (currency Moroccan)” by being supposedly “intermediary companies”has recounted.
Specifically, the lawyer has indicated that in the case that has touched them -since he assures that “there are different types of fraud”-, they are “intermediary companies that are also dedicated to send currency”. In this sense, he explained that “they sent the currency to our account, the money that came belongs to this client, and then they made false invoices and pretended that they had purchased some merchandise from us, animal food”, all without the knowledge of the dispatch, has qualified.
Once the money was received by the lawyers, he pointed out that “we bought the house from our clients and they told the Treasury of Portugal that they have bought merchandise from a company in Spain” to supposedly deduct VAT and “defraud the Portuguese tax authorities”. During the intervention carried out this morning at the Lawbird offices “they only wanted information on false invoices”, pointed out Flores, who recalled that “the Public Treasury had already requested information from us and we had given it to them” two years ago and “we had said that they were not invoices for VAT, that there was not a transaction here” of the assessment. For this reason, from Lawbird they have advanced that they will appear as injured parties in the legal case.