Chinese businessmen detained in massive swoop on suspected €40 million tax dodge
With the pitfalls inherent in the country’s Golden Visa scheme back in the public eye, a new police ‘megaoperation’ into tax fraud on a potentially massive scale has seen eight Chinese businessmen arrested in the north of the country.
The men, most of them owners of warehouses, are suspected of having sold or been involved in selling ‘undeclared’ products for cash.
The scheme has allegedly been use to ship “millions of euros to China in suitcases or via banking scams”, writes tabloid Jornal de Notícias – suggesting the criminal operation has been running for a little over two years and could involve up to €40 million.
Other news sources claim the alleged frauds may have been running for as much as four years (Observador).
Whatever the timeline, SIC television news says losses to the State “in undeclared IVA and IRC” will almost certainly run to several millions.
The scheme “will have had the collaboration of accountants”, says SIC.
In a statement released after 40 house, warehouse and office searches on Tuesday, Judicial Police (PJ) said that alongside the arrests, 18 vehicles – “most of them top of the range” (Observador) – and 350,000 euros in cash were seized.
Observador later revealed that “as well as IT equipment and mobile phones apprehended, merchandise to the value of three million euros and unsupported by the necessary documents” was also seized, along with “documents presumed to be false, including passports and international driving licences”.
It is the latter that has led to “suspicions of crimes of aiding illegal immigration”.
Further indication of this came from the ‘near slavery conditions’ discovered in the warehouses, reports Observador, where workers “were being exploited without regulated timetables”.
A PJ source is understood to have told the news website how banks were the ones that first raised the alarm. They had noticed that accounts briefly opened by Chinese clients had “thousands of euros put into them” that were then transferred to China.
Asking for documentation to support the movement of funds, the banks received invoices that they “very quickly realised were false”.
Explains Observador, dates particularly did not tally with banking movements.
The next steps in this investigation will be “to try and find out where in China the money has gone”.
“The beneficiaries are already known”, says Observador – but the final destination of the money is not.
Operation Albare, as the probe has been dubbed, is apparently related to another investigation that in 2017 led to the arrest of eight Chinese and one Portuguese, suspected of tax fraud and money laundering at Póvoa do Varzim casino.
Suspected crimes in Albare range from criminal association, money laundering, qualified fiscal fraud, the sale, circulation and occultation of counterfeit articles and products, document falsification, the aiding of illegal immigration and trafficking of narcotics.
The eight arrested range in ages from 34 to 57.
It is not immediately clear at this point how many of those arrested came to Portugal through the Golden Visa scheme, but the regime’s “Achilles heel” when it comes to organised crime has long been in the public eye (click here).
Government allies Bloco de Esquerda want the regime scrapped altogether – and as soon as possible. Prime minister António Costa has said the government is “always available to analyse all the risks of corruption, because it is fundamental and a priority to prevent corruption”.