Dismantled an international criminal organization that defrauded 4.5 million euros
Seven members of the organization have been arrested, including those responsible, and 3 searches have been carried out in Spain and France
The criminal organization defrauded a total of 4.5 million euros with VAT fraud and scams in vehicle leasing contracts
The leaders of the organization, who operated from Gallic territory, had moved their base of operations to the Tarragona coast to avoid the action of the French justice.
For the fraud they had created more than 150 fictitious commercial companies that operated with false documentation in France, Spain and Belgium
Within the framework of the ACUARIOS operation, developed jointly by the Civil Guard, the French Gendarmerie and the Gallo National Customs Service, an international criminal organization dedicated to tax fraud through the simulated sale of vehicles, the illegal sale to third parties of vehicles acquired through leasing and the simulation of contracts to carry out VAT carousel fraud.
The operation carried out simultaneously in France and Spain has resulted in the arrest of 7 members of the organization, 3 in Spain and 4 in France, carrying out 3 searches of homes and businesses in two towns on the Tarragona coast. In total, 40,500 euros in cash, 9 high-end vehicles, computer equipment, more than 75 mobile devices and 11 computer devices have been intervened, as well as abundant documentation related to the operation.
The investigation began in 2019 in France, as a result of the detection in that country of several suspicious commercial operations by recently created companies. After initiating the first inquiries, the French investigators were able to verify that the invoices were falsified, either in the issuance of the invoices, or with respect to the company that allegedly issued them.
The first inquiries allowed the researchers to detect links between several companies that carried out a similar operation, having various elements in common, both through their administrators and the financial elements necessary to carry out the activity. Likewise, it was detected that the companies were linked to two individuals residing in that country, who were already known to the investigators as they had previous police records for similar events.
This first investigation revealed that, in parallel to the tax fraud, multiple fictitious commercial companies managed by front men had been created to carry out scams through the rental of vehicles. In this way, through a long-term rental contract, they were made with different vehicles from the rental fleet, which they then sold as if they were the rightful owners and without paying the rent owed to the supplying company.
After these first inquiries, a legal case was opened in Gallic territory, in which crimes of fraud committed by organized gangs, VAT fraud, document falsification, abuse of corporate assets and money laundering were investigated. In it, a total of 66 companies established by the main investigated were linked, having detected at that time an amount of almost 340,000 euros defrauded through them.
However, in the middle of last year, when the Gendarmerie tried to exploit the information obtained in the investigation to initiate the proceedings agreed by the judicial authority, they learned that the leaders of the investigated organization had abruptly left the French country, and that their fate could be the Costa Dorada in Spain.
Therefore, after receiving a request for police cooperation, the Tarragona Civil Guard initiated an investigation in order to locate the people involved in the investigation, locating them in various locations in the province. After several months of investigation, the Civil Guard was able to detect that a "base of operations" had been established in the province of Tarragona, with those investigated having acquired all the necessary logistics to carry out their illegal activities from Spain.
This logistics included real estate to reside and other security acquired for the collaborators who were in France, in such a way that, when they came to our country, they could hold meetings with those investigated in an accommodation other than their residence. Likewise, they acquired vehicles to get around and numerous telephone and computer terminals to continue with the development of the illicit activity from our country.
All the information obtained by the Civil Guard investigators was sent to the French investigators, forming a Joint Investigation Team made up of the Civil Guard, the French Gendarmerie and the French National Customs Service, aimed at integrating all the information obtained, prepare it and translate it into the appropriate judicial proceedings. After this investigation process with the board, 150 merchants were located, quantifying the VAT fraud committed through them in a total of 1.5 million euros, as well as 2.9 million through the fraud committed with leasing contracts with 100 vehicles involved.
At the end of May, simultaneous searches were carried out in Spain and France with the aim of dismantling the criminal organization under investigation.
During the practice of entering one of the homes made in the province of Tarragona, one of the investigated, who happened to be the leader of the organization, tried to flee by jumping into the garden of the adjoining house, being intercepted and quickly reduced thanks to the police fence that had been previously established. The detainee, a Lebanese national, was trying to escape with a large amount of money, which turned out to be the base of operations of the Criminal Organization.
During the searches carried out in Spain, 55 mobile terminals, 4 laptops and a huge number of vehicle leasing contracts were found, indications that supported the previous investigation of the joint Franco-Spanish team. In total, among the actions carried out in both countries, 40,500 euros in cash, 9 high-end vehicles, computer equipment, more than 75 mobile devices and 11 computer devices and abundant documentation related to the fraud of 4.5 million euros have been intervened .
The three detainees in Spain, after being presented at the National Court, were admitted to prison pending their extradition to France, where they will be brought before the French justice for the crimes committed. Regarding the four detainees from the records in France, they were requested to be provisionally imprisoned by the court hearing the case.
The fight against organized crime requires the joint work of the police forces and judicial authorities of different countries through agile and effective collaboration mechanisms. The Civil Guard, thanks to its police links and its international cooperation units, collaborates with multiple police forces on a daily basis to neutralize international criminal organizations with a presence in Spain, with the fight against different illicit traffic and tax fraud being a priority.
For more information, you can contact the Tarragona Civil Guard Peripheral Communication Office at 977.237.777.