Portugal: VAT tax scam worth €4.3 mln involved 6,000 imported cars

More than 6,000 cars were used in a vehicle import VAT tax scam worth at least 4.3 million euros, revealed Norberto Martins, director of the Porto Judiciary Police (PJ).

In a press conference on the operation that led to the detention on Wednesday of seven people, he clarified that with a ” scam of non-payment of VAT, those involved were able to have highly competitive prices for the cars they sold”. 

According to the “investigation, there are more than 6,000 vehicles involved in the scheme, almost all of which are worth more than €20,000”. 

Most of the vehicles, he said, “came from Germany, France and Spain”. 

“In addition to the seven detainees, there is the prospect of one or two more arrests which, for operational reasons, could not be executed today,” he said, also announcing the seizure of “more than 30 mid and high-end vehicles” and “more than 100,000 euros in cash”. 

After “70 house and non-household searches, carried out in the municipalities of Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia, Gondomar, Vila do Conde, Póvoa de Varzim, Braga, Barcelos, Paredes, Vila Nova de Famalicão and Ponte de Lima, seven individuals were detained, including three car dealers and two certified accountants, aged between 35 and 50, suspected of a fraudulent vehicle import scheme.

In the so-called “Free Wheel” operation, the authorities aim to “clarify a VAT tax fraud scheme that takes advantage of differing tax rates”.

The seven detentions occurred for the “presumed practice of the crimes of qualified tax fraud, laundering, falsification of documents, computer falsification, pimping and criminal association.

Norberto Martins explained, on the pimping case, “there were indications that part of the profits had been laundered by one of the defendants to set up a prostitution scheme under the guise of a massage parlour. 

One of the detainees was present on Wednesday for the first judicial hearing and the following will be heard on Thursday.