Cobra nets another tax catch

COBRA, a special team formed to combat tax fraud, has uncovered a carousel scheme of 24 pork-trading companies, which cheated Slovakia out of at least €6.7 million in unpaid VAT over the last five years. František Imrecze, the president of the Financial Administration, and Tibor Gašpar, the president of the Police Corps, reported the case on February 26.

COBRA, a special team formed to combat tax fraud, has uncovered a carousel scheme of 24 pork-trading companies, which cheated Slovakia out of at least €6.7 million in unpaid VAT over the last five years. František Imrecze, the president of the Financial Administration, and Tibor Gašpar, the president of the Police Corps, reported the case on February 26.

“These are real white collars, maybe respected businessmen until yesterday,” Finance Minister Peter Kažimír said at the press conference.

The fraud involved significant meat processing companies active in Bratislava and Trnava Regions, but Imrecze did not specify their names.

Within this carousel scheme, the criminal group exported pork from the Czech Republic to Slovakia and, via fictitious trades, avoided paying VAT. The case involved a total of 33 tax audits of 563 tax periods, as well as 24 companies and their operation over the course of four years. Tax audits are ongoing and the tax fraud may in the end exceed €10 million.

In total, 15 people are being accused of crimes of establishing, plotting and supporting a criminal group and tax fraud. If found guilty, they face imprisonment of up to 12 years.

The investigation started last August and culminated in February when 123 policemen conducted seven house searches and four searches of other premises, and detained 14 people. A 15th person involved is already in prison for drug-related crimes. The police also seized five properties which, according to Imrecze, the state can sell to recoup some of the money it is owed.

On February 28 Cobra informed about an exposed tax fraud attempt. Within an operation dubbed Jackal it prevented an unauthiorised VAT refund of about €1 million. The carrousel deal involved trading in real estate, movable assets and wood.

Cobra has mainly uncovered tax fraud in trade involving metals, corn and sugar (i.e. commodities supplied in bulk which are later to be consumed) totalling €60 million during its first six months of operation.

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