Customs and Excise officers investigating an alleged £120 million mobile phone VAT fraud yesterday arrested 39 people in a series of raids throughout the UK and in Spain.
Operation 'Euripus' was launched early yesterday morning with the assistance of police from Staffordshire and other police forces throughout the county. Swoops were made by Customs investigators at business premises and 31 residential premises across the country. Three hundred and fifty Customs enforcement officers were involved in the raids, described by Customs as one of the largest VAT fraud operations of its kind ever mounted.
Thirty-three men and six women were arrested on suspicion of involvement in a sophisticated fraudulent "carousel" network that trafficked vast quantities of mobile phones for the purposes of tax fraud. It is believed that the fraud involved buying mobile phones from the continent VAT free and supplying them to businesses in the UK. The carousel occurs when companies then sell the phones back to the Continent, without payment of VAT to the UK Government and without the phones ever being used by a consumer.
Searches and arrests were made in Buckinghamshire, Cheshire, Coventry, Essex, Lancashire, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Middlesex, Northampton, Reading, Sheffield, Slough, Cardiff, South Wales, Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent, Surrey, Wolverhampton, Wrexham. Searches were also carried out in Barcelona and Malaga in Spain and also in Majorca and Tenerife.
Several large amounts of cash were also seized during the searches. At one of the business addresses, Customs officers also seized a tonne of cannabis.
Customs officers are interviewing those arrested at police stations throughout the UK. Investigations are continuing. ®