Police and magistrates swoop on multi-million-euro textile fraud

As PJ police swooped on yet another case of millionaire fraud on Wednesday – this time in the textile industry – the so-called ring leader of the allegedly nefarious scheme was preparing to set out on a daily pilgrimage to Fátima.

Serafim Martins – the head of Feira dos Tecidos – had been walking 30 kilometres a day between Porto and Fátima in the run-up to this year’s anniversary apparition of the Virgin Mary, to be celebrated next week (May 13).

But his pilgrimages have now been called to a halt – and today Martins and nine others, including his son, his accountant, his commercial director and a number of other employees, are appearing in court on suspicion of various counts of fraud and money-laundering.

The investigation is understood to hinge on “tens of millions of euros-worth of profits” that were never declared.

Instead, Martins is understood to have used “a complex web of fictitious businesses” to reduce tax liabilities and channel millions into offshore fiscal havens.

According to national news reports, “the operation is far from over”.

Police are now painstakingly going through Martins’ many company accounts with tax authorities to “verify discrepancies”.

In all, 30 searches took place on homes, businesses and lawyers’ offices in Porto.

Tabloid Correio da Manhã reveals four lawyers who worked for the web of companies have also had their premises searched.

Feira dos Tecidos is described as a business with outlets in Guimarães, Porto, Coimbra and Lisbon.

The taxes Martins’ schemes are thought to have avoided centre on IVA and IRS payments.

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