The Malta Independent 21 March 2019, Thursday

Italian police arrest 12, keep tabs on 69 others in money laundering case with Malta connection

Albert Galea Thursday, 14 March 2019, 14:44 Last update: about 7 days ago

Twelve suspects have been detained in Italy by the Carabinieri as part of Operation Black Money for allegedly laundering a total of €75 million, €38 million of which allegedly passed through a number of countries including Malta.

Two of them are in custody while another 10 are under house arrest. The police also sezied €205,000, Italian media report.

Another 69 persons are also under the police’s microscope.

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Italian media reported that the investigations into the case began after suspicious movements were noted by the police at the post office in Cerea – a town in the province of Verona.  Investigators were able to establish that six cooperatives registered in Milan were using a complex mechanism of false invoices with the complicity of fictitious companies which were made to deceive the Italian Treasury.

The cooperatives also reportedly worked with fictitious companies called “paper mills” – in cuthat they exist only on paper, without an office, headed by a single nominee – which then issued high-cost invoices which were used to obtain tax refunds and compensation for social security contributions.

These refunds and contributions, VeronaSera reported, were then paid into the accounts of “convenience” companies, aside from the previous paper mills, which used a dense network of people – “borrowers” to “clean” the money. The money was paid into some current accounts, taken out and handed over by them to “team leaders” who then took them over to the two administrators – who have now ended up in prison.

In this way, VeronaSera said, about €37 million was laundered out of the post offices of Verona, Brescia and Bergamo, whilst a further €38 million would be shipped abroad between China, Croatia, Hungary and Malta.

This alleged fraudulent system was all set in motion with every contract – private or not – that the said cooperatives were awarded from unsuspecting firms.  The system allowed these cooperatives to offer the same services as other companies but at less of a cost, thus altering the principle of fair competition on the market itself.

From all this the team leaders managing the paper mills were paid with 2.5% of the paid amounts, while samplers enjoyed something of a salary of €50 per day.

61 bank and post office current accounts were checked and traced back to 18 paper mills and 13 companies of convenience.

Two men, Italians, who reportedly led luxurious lives despite being supposedly unemployed, were arrested last month with one – a man of Calabrian origin – alleged to be the true administrator of the six cooperatives, and the other – from Bergamo – a manager of some of the paper mills.

Police also carried out 17 searches, seizing over €130,000 and confirming their suspicious in 10 other individuals – all of whom are now under house arrest.  All these individuals are Italian save for one, who is Chinese. 

Italian police described the system as a “very complex phenomenon, which embeds itself into the Italian social and entrepreneurial fabric, and influences the labour market”.

The remaining 69 suspects, who are the nominees of the fictitious companies, are also under the police’s microscope as well as all those who have collaborated with them and the cooperatives.

 

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