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Italy: EPPO seizes €24 million in investigation for tax evasion on imported fuels

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In an investigation into tax evasion on imported fuels, led by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office in Palermo, the Italian Financial Police (Guardia di Finanza) executed a seizure decree on Thursday of assets worth more than €24 million against eight companies, two individual entrepreneurs and 13 suspects.

The judicial decree to seize bank accounts, vehicles and real estate, issued by a judge of the Court of Catania, was executed in the provinces of Catania, Palermo, Enna, Syracuse, Catanzaro, Reggio Calabria and Naples.

The investigation concerns two suspected criminal groups that allegedly marketed petroleum products, illegally introduced into the country, for subsequent resale at a low cost, while evading tax and VAT – as well as agricultural diesel and unauthorised blends, fraudulently intended for automotive use.

A first suspected criminal group – which includes two suspects already in provisional detention for crimes relating to the mafia – allegedly introduced into the Italian territory huge quantities of energy products coming from Austria, Germany, Czechia, Romania and Slovenia.

The imported energy products were supposed to be sent to two warehouses in the provinces of Verona and Catania, according to forged circulation documents, but were in fact destined for Etnean storage sites managed by the suspects.

The group then sold the imported products at a low cost to road haulage companies and fuel distributors operating in Sicily, while allegedly evading the payment of several taxes, in particular VAT, by using fraudulent invoices and falsified tax returns.

According to the investigation, this allowed the suspects to place the fuel on the market at low prices, thus obtaining an unlawful advantage over honest economic operators.

Fuel fraud

The second suspected criminal group, with its operational base in the province of Catania, is believed to have purchased large quantities of diesel fuel for agricultural use and energy products resulting from blending low-quality exhausted oils, from commercial depots located in Reggio Calabria, Gioia Tauro and Palermo. They allegedly then marketed the fraudulent blends in the Sicilian region, while also evading tax.

In the course of this investigation, more than 125 000 litres of fuels of illegal origin were already seized between February and May 2021, together with the equipment used to transport and store the goods.

The investigation was carried out by the Economic and Financial Police Unit in Catania of the Guardia di Finanza and the Excise, Customs and Monopolies Agency of the DT7 Sicily – Regional Anti-Fraud Operational Group.

The EPPO was also assisted by the authorities of the countries of origin of the energy products, thanks to the mutual assistance and administrative cooperation procedures.