Investigators are reported to have completed their work in compiling the long list of accusations to be brought against a number of people who are to be charged with the VAT department fraud scandal.
The fraud is estimated to run into millions of Euros and the exact entity of such a scam will perhaps never be known.
Six VAT department employees, a number of businessmen and a criminal gang have been arrested and interrogated by the police over the past four months and are expected to be charged in court in the coming days, as all the paperwork has been prepared by the Economic Crimes Unit and have been sent to the Attorney General.
The investigation – triggered by Finance Minister Tonio Fenech following a tip-off from a concerned businessman – has reportedly unearthed a well organised fraudulent scheme that evolved around a VAT department clerk who is said to have pocketed more than €190,000 over three years.
Other colleagues at the VAT department were allegedly roped into the scheme and included intermediaries, some of whom with a criminal background.
When police first raided the VAT department offices, an employee and an unidentified intermediary were allegedly caught red handed, while other employees were arrested and had all their computers and other paperwork seized for investigation.
A number of VAT inspectors were also investigated and are to be charged over the scam.
Business Today has learnt that apart from charges of fraud to the government’s detriment, a number of company directors from a leading air conditioning company, a paint manufacturer, carpenters, and restaurateurs are to be charged with corruption and criminal
association. VAT Commissioner Joseph Sammut refused to step down over the scandal, while the government has not asked for his resignation, insisting that it was “premature” given that the police investigations were “ongoing”.
According to Joseph Sammut, it was he who initiated the process that lead to the investigation, but given the scale of such an investigation and the amount of money that has allegedly been siphoned through the scam, continues to raise the question about how tenable his position is.
The investigations revealed how one particular clerk would “disappear” from his desk for hours and return without any justification, while other colleagues would notice him leave his desk, leave the office, meet clients around the corner, collect papers, take them in with him and he would fill in their returns.
The other clerks who worked with him, would pocket commissions for assisting his cover-up in deleting garnishee orders imposed on VAT defaulters, while others would assist him in processing false information that would often see defaulting or fined clients suddenly become beneficiaries of refunds.
While all the VAT employees involved have been since suspended from their duties, other people investigated have been released on police bail, and it is expected that they will be facing preventive custody, given the seriousness of the case, and government’s insistence for an “example” to be made out of all the people involved.