Palermo where assets were frozen over EU Funds Fraud De Xerones - Flickr, CC BY 2.0,

Italy freezes assets over EU funds fraud

Business By Region News The Islands

A Palermo judge freezes assets of individuals and companies suspected of EU funds fraud. The freezing order totalled over €15million.

At the request of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Palermo, a judge executed a freezing order exceeding €15million. This action targeted seven individuals and five companies suspected of EU funds fraud, self-money laundering, and tax evasion.

The judge imposed restrictive measures on the seven suspects, prohibiting them from applying for subsidies, entering contracts with public administration, and engaging in certain professional or entrepreneurial activities.

In addition to seizing money, real estate, and company shares, the Italian Financial Police also confiscated a well-known campervan adorned with political messages and topped with two coffins. The vehicle, parked next to a historic landmark in Palermo for over a year, belonged to the suspects.

The suspects allegedly falsified documentation, including formal declarations, technical reports, and photographic evidence, to unlawfully obtain over €4.5 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). These funds were intended for the construction of a fuel distribution system, a farm with stables, and a vineyard. Over €2.2million of the requested amount has already been disbursed.

Investigations revealed the suspects issued and used invoices for non-existent operations totalling €8.3million. This enabled them to receive over €3.4million in VAT reimbursements.

Additionally, evidence indicated self-money laundering, where the same individuals committed both the primary fraud and the subsequent laundering of the illicit proceeds. Evidence suggests the suspects used over €1.1million of the fraudulent proceeds to purchase real estate from bankruptcy proceedings and for speculative investments, aiming to obscure the criminal origins of the money. Another €850,000 in criminal proceeds is also alleged to have been misappropriated.

Seizure of five companies

To prevent the five companies under investigation from continuing their economic activities, the judge ordered their seizure. They also appointed a judicial administrator to oversee them. The collective value of these companies is €7.5million.

The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) is the independent public prosecution office of the European Union. It is responsible for investigating, prosecuting, and bringing to judgment crimes against the financial interests of the EU.

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