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Germany: First conviction in €80 million VAT fraud involving luxury cars

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(Luxembourg, 7 February 2024) – A former notary was convicted on Friday (2 February 2024) by the Berlin Regional Court, for forgery and false notarisations, following an investigation into an €80 million VAT fraud involving luxury cars and medical face masks led by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Berlin (Germany).

As previously reported, the investigation uncovered a complex network through which luxury cars and medical face masks were traded, using shell companies in several countries – including Czechia, Germany and Poland. The defendants are understood to have used people in economic difficulty from Poland and Latvia as straw men. It is also alleged that the main suspects acted as factual managing directors of several companies by forging signatures, assisted by the notary and a tax advisor.

The court found that the notary had deliberately notarised transfers of companies and of registered offices based on the forged signatures of straw men, whose identities had been abused. While the defendant was not aware that the shell companies were part of a VAT fraud scheme, the court considered him a gang member for his false notarisations and forgeries.

Given that the defendant has admitted to the offences, has returned his licence to practice as a notary during the criminal proceedings and is seriously ill, the Berlin Regional Court sentenced him to two years of imprisonment and suspended the sentence on probation. In addition, the court ordered the confiscation of the notary fees obtained.

A judgment regarding the other defendants is not expected until April.

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