Europe-wide VAT fraud network thwarted

Fraud - definitionLaw enforcement and prosecution authorities from Germany and the Netherlands, supported by Eurojust and Europol, have dismantled a gang responsible for defrauding Member States of approximately €150 million in a joint action targeting VAT fraud. Nine individuals were arrested and 26 premises searched.

The coordinated action was initiated by the Prosecution Office for Serious Fraud and Environmental Crime in Zwolle and the Fiscal Information and Investigation Service in Almelo in the Netherlands, in close cooperation with the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Augsburg and the Bavarian State Criminal Police Office in Germany. In total, 11 territories were involved, including nine Member States.

This action is part of a large-scale investigation on organised VAT fraud named Operation Vertigo, formed by the Czech Republic, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Eurojust and Europol.

Combating carousel fraud is an EU priority in the fight against serious and organised crime. Following the operation, Mr Michael Rauschenbach, Head of Operations for Serious and Organised Crime at Europol, said: “This action sends the clear message that Europol and its partners are determined to pursue criminals involved in organised VAT fraud. Europol strongly supports EU Member States’ investigations in this area and, for the past six years, has had a fully dedicated team of specialists to tackle this form of crime. Operation Vertigo is an example of how working in close cooperation with EU Member States and partners such as Eurojust from the early stages of the investigations achieves excellent results and operational successes. Europol will continue to offer its unique capabilities and full assistance to eradicate carousel fraud.”

Carousel fraud is financial fraud that is an abuse of the VAT system resulting in the fraudulent extraction of revenue. It may involve any type of standard-rated goods or services. As with acquisition fraud, goods or services are acquired zero-rates from the European Union, with the acquirer then going missing without accounting for the VAT due on the onward supply.