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Spanish Tax Agency launches major raid against Chinese distributors

Agents search dozens of warehouses across country in operation into suspected fraud

Around 300 officers from Spain’s Tax Agency swooped on dozens of warehouses around the country on Thursday in a raid targeting suspected tax fraud on the part of distributors of Chinese products in Spain.

Vista de establecimientos en Cobo Calleja.
Vista de establecimientos en Cobo Calleja. EFE

The raids saw tax office staff as well as specialized teams from the National Fraud Investigation Office (ONIF) and customs officials search some 60 Chinese industrial warehouses at sites including the Cobo Calleja industrial park in Madrid’s Fuenlabrada district and the El Carrus industrial park in Barcelona. Sites in 11 Spanish regions have been targeted in the operations with searches expected to last all day Thursday.

Tax inspectors have opened investigations on dozens of firms operated by Asian businessmen in Spain

Tax inspectors have opened investigations on dozens of firms operated by Asian businessmen in Spain.

Thursday’s operation comes just six months after the Tax Agency dismantled a major fraud operation involving the import of products from Asia and Pakistan. Operation Impala, carried out in December last year, lifted the lid on the fraudulent undervaluing of goods imported from those countries in order to minimize customs duties and sales tax.

In recent years, Spain’s Tax Agency has launched a string of operations against Chinese distributors, the largest of those being so-called “Operation Juguetes” (toys) in 2014 where authorities discovered fraud to the tune of €100 million related to 15,000 separate import operations involving millions of articles over several years.

Charges resulting from that operation related to offenses such as tax fraud, money laundering, smuggling, belonging to a criminal organization, forgery of official documents and intellectual property infringements.

The operation comes just months after the agency dismantled a major fraud operation involving the import of products from Asia and Pakistan

The organization targeted by Operation Juguetes imported merchandise from China for sale in Europe but declared the value of those goods at levels below the legally established limits. The fraud ring also failed to declare all sales within Spain, thus defrauding the Tax Agency in terms of customs duties, sales tax and company tax.

The criminal ring, in operation for several years, continually changing its procedures, delivery points and procedures to avoid being detected, even going so far as to import good meant for the Spanish market via The Netherlands.

English version by George Mills.

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