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Investigation ‘Cheap Ink’ sees first convictions

March 21, 2024

In an investigation led by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Venice (Italy), four suspects have been convicted of participation in a criminal organisation selling toner cartridges and office supplies at cheap prices, by systematically evading VAT.

These are the first convictions in this investigation, code-named ‘Cheap Ink’, which uncovered a massive VAT carousel fraud, with profits estimated at €58 million ($63.24 million).

Two entrepreneurs from Padua, Italy (father and son), charged as the perpetrators of the fraudulent scheme, were each sentenced to six years and two months’ imprisonment. In addition to participation in a criminal organisation, they were found guilty of VAT fraud, money laundering, forgery of public documents (including notary deeds) and forgery of signatures.

One accountant working for the criminal ring was sentenced to two years and two months’ imprisonment. A figurehead, who had been officially named as the legal representative of several companies involved in the scheme, was sentenced to two years and one month of imprisonment.

The verdicts were the result of an abbreviated procedure, as provided by Italy’s Code of Criminal Procedure. The court acquitted one defendant, who had been accused of being a straw man for one of the companies. This is a first court decision, still subject to appeal.

The investigation uncovered a complex fraud scheme involving more than 100 suspects and a network of companies located mainly in Italy’s Triveneto region, but also in several other EU countries.

The scheme, which used destitute people as ‘straw men’ for dozens of companies, allowed the suspects to import toners for professional printers and stationery into Italy, while systematically evading VAT. This also allowed the group to resell the imported products at extremely advantageous prices, distorting the principles of fair competition on the market.

Earlier in this investigation, at the request of the EPPO, the Italian Financial Police (Nucleo di Polizia Economico-Finanziaria Bolzano – Guardia di Finanza) seized cash, real estate and luxury assets from 20 companies and 15 suspects, some of whom were subject to restrictive personal liberty measures or preventive measures. Trial is pending for the remaining suspects in this investigation.

This case, led by the EPPO since October 2021, included investigative measures conducted in Austria, Czechia, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.

The operational model of the EPPO as a single office made it possible to dismantle a complex cross-border criminal network and bring to trial its ringleaders in less than two-and-a-half years, by collecting evidence much more quickly and in a more comprehensive manner than under the previously existing judicial cooperation methods.

The EPPO is the independent public prosecution office of the European Union. It?is responsible for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to judgment crimes against the financial interests of the EU.

Categories : World Focus

Tags : Cheap Ink Convictions Crime EPPO Investigation VAT Fraud

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