June 25, 2024

Athens News

News in English from Greece

A high-ranking official of the Ministry of Finance provided protection for a criminal organization involved in alcohol smuggling

Following the dismantling of a criminal organization within the leadership of the Chalkis tax department, a new revelation emerged in a corruption case involving tax authorities and a high-ranking official of the Ministry of Finance who obstructed the investigation after receiving a bribe.

According to Documentowe are talking on smuggling and money laundering derived from criminal activities, with parallel involving accountants and a tax official holding a senior position in the Ministry of Finance.

In short, this is yet another criminal organization that was patronized by a high-ranking official close to the Mitsotakis government.

It all started with an anonymous complaint and the case was brought to the attention of the competent services of the Greek Prosecutor's Office, headed by Georgios Pitsilis, and now it has been brought to the attention of the Supreme Court prosecutor George Adilini and the heads of the Piraeus prosecutor's office. The complaint concerns the creation of specific shell companies in March 2023 at the command of a “criminal” involved in smuggling alcohol.

The purpose of creating the companies was to “share” the turnover of smuggled drinks, which was supposed to increase due to the tourist season, so as not to arouse suspicion among the competent control services of ΑΑΔΕ. Once companies' turnover exceeded a certain threshold, accountants began to liquidate and dissolve the companies in order to erase all traces of their activities.

The complaint provides the identification numbers of five companies that were “opened” with the aim of misleading the tax authorities. This case and its criminal elements were primarily reported to the Directorate of Planning and Evaluation of Audits and Investigations (DIPAEE) of the Hellenic Tax Administration, and other departments, as well as the Economic Police.

However, no “result” was obtained

The Professional Chamber of Piraeus filed a lawsuit with the justice authorities in the summer of 2023, as a result of which case materials were compiled and a preliminary investigation was launched.

As part of the investigation, the competent prosecutor ordered the Department for Investigation of Economic Crimes (ΣΔΟΕ) to carry out an investigation. It is alleged that when the investigation began to bear fruit and there was a threat of harm to interested parties, a manager of the Ministry of Finance with trade union activity, holding the position of “political head” of ΣΔΟΕ, intervened. According to the complaint, the manager allegedly took it upon himself to “obstruct” ΣΔΟΕ's investigation so that those involved would be put in their place in exchange for money!

That is, in this case, not only did ΣΔΟΕ not detect the smuggling and money laundering, but at the same time, a high-ranking tax official was paid to “remove” those involved or limit their losses. So who is this senior tax official referred to in the anonymous letter?

What does the letter say

“In March 2023, a liquor smuggler allegedly “known to the authorities,” according to the complaint, ordered accountants in Piraeus and Athens to set up five companies. The creation of these companies was associated with “servicing the sale of smuggled alcoholic beverages during the tourist season on various islands” such as Rhodes, Crete, Zakynthos, etc. There are liquor stores on these islands that “knowingly engage in the smuggling of alcoholic beverages” and supply them “either to large all-inclusive hotels or cafe bars.”

The creation of these five companies was not accidental. As emphasized, “the purpose of their creation was to divide the turnover and not act in one company, which could arouse suspicion among the tax authorities.”

We were talking about a turnover of 2.5 million euros, which, if it suddenly appeared in a newly created company “without a head office, procurement of raw materials and infrastructure,” would really alert the tax authorities as an “extraordinary tax disaster.” But there was something more to the plan. When each of these companies shows a certain amount, a team of accountants “will carry out a solution – liquidation and termination of their activities.” This would reduce the risk of being detected by AADE.

Accountants actually created companies. The complaint contains five VAT numbers of five companies. According to official documents, these were companies with a registered capital ranging from 1,000 euros (in most cases) to 5,000 euros. The shareholders of the companies were persons from Belgium, France, Italy, France and Cyprus. They all stated that they reside permanently in Greece and, in particular, in various areas of Attica.

A few months after the companies were created, the second stage of the scheme was implemented: termination of activities and liquidation. However, apparently, everything did not go as planned. According to the complaint, because the companies created were one-person limited liability companies, a “notarial deed of dissolution” was required. In particular, the notary had to draw up documents in the physical presence of the proposed administrator of each company.

However, this was impossible, as a result of which “obviously false notarial acts were drawn up.” But the fraud was detected by the services of the Piraeus Chamber of Commerce. It was curious that the same foreign individuals were involved in other cases of company creation. According to the same sources, they also discovered that there was something wrong with the documents they submitted.

At the initiative of the President of the Piraeus Chamber of Commerce, Ioannis Voutsinas, this issue was brought up for discussion at a board meeting, as well as in the Central Union of Chambers. The Piraeus Chamber Council decided to file a complaint with the Piraeus Public Prosecutor's Office, citing “illegal actions.” It is truly impressive how the services and the President of the Piraeus Chamber of Commerce discovered what the competent services of ΑΑΔΕ under the leadership of G. Pitsilis did not notice.

After a complaint, a case was formed at the Piraeus prosecutor's office. As part of this, the State Revenue Service was instructed to investigate the content of the complaints. According to the anonymous complaint, the ΣΔΟΕ team began investigating the case and soon began to uncover various facts, such as “the absence of a head office in each company.” The “criminal” who ordered the creation of the companies became concerned because there was a risk of “canceling payment of invoices for the products sold.”

As already noted, payment is made exclusively by issuing dated checks. Therefore, the “perpetrator” sought a solution to “limit the damage that should have been caused” as a result of the SDOE investigation. The decision was not long in coming. This was the “manager of the Ministry of Finance”, who had just been appointed to a position in the ministry and who was also Member of the Federation of Greek Tax Officials. According to the complaint, the union tax inspector often “writes articles in the small press about tax events and government decisions”.

The tax inspector in question allegedly found a solution. Starting in 2020, ΣΔΟΕ “will not have access to the files of the myData platform, which is an audit tool for ΣΔΟΕ services only.” Thus, she “does not have access to the tax behavior of the companies being audited.” This “weakness” of ΣΔΟΕ was allegedly taken advantage of by the tax official to “obstruct the investigation” in exchange for “financial reward.”

“The prestige of his position in the Ministry of Finance, which is also the political head of the ΣΔΟΕ operational unit, and given the inability of ΣΔΟΕ to audit the tax behavior of corporate taxpayers due to lack of access to the myData platform, they created the ideal conditions for his involvement – apparently for financial reward – in control process, preventing the investigation from continuing in such a way that it does not affect these companies, especially the recipients of the invoices in the islands, so that the question of their return does not arise,” – says the anonymous complaint.

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