News | Wednesday, 30 September 2009

VAT scam culprits could be put out of business

Fraud estimated to exceed €10 million, gone undetected for years

Karl Stagno-Navarra

Businessmen who have been convicted by the courts over the VAT scam, may be shortly put out of business, as a string of hefty garnishee orders are being issued against them by the VAT department.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General is asking for the courts to order the confiscation of property and funds in terms of the Money Laundering Act.
Finance ministry sources told MaltaToday that VAT officials are accounting on each and every single individual businessman involved in the scam in a bid to recover all the money due with interest according to law, that add up to millions of Euros.
Former VAT department employees, and middlemen implicated in the scam are also facing the tough implications of breaching the Money Laundering Act as well as the government’s wrath to recover the monies due through the scam, with interest.
While unofficially the VAT fraud was said to be estimated to be around €10 million, experts say that the fraud is calculated to be far more than that, and went undetected for years. The appeals filed this week by the Attorney General against the controversially lean penalties imposed by the Court of Magistrates against the seven men who admitted their involvement in the scam, sent shivers down the spines of other people who were expected to register a guilty plea, and soon retracted.
Attorney General Silvio Camilleri insisted with the Court of Appeal, that those who admitted to their involvement in the VAT scam should be jailed and not given suspended sentences and affordable fines.
“The court needs to send out the message that corruption or attempting to corrupt (a public official) will not be tolerated or in any way condoned,” the AG said.
Through the scam, businessmen who owed money to the VAT Department paid off certain employees for the amounts to be reduced.
The application of suspended jail terms in this case “went against the spirit and will of the legislator” and was also “counterproductive in the context of what took place within the VAT Department”, he argued, adding that only an effective jail term was a deterrent against such crimes happening again.
Moreover, he argued that the damage done to the VAT Department should not only have been seen from the monetary point of view but the court should also consider the “incalculable damage to the trust the public has in public institutions”.
According to the Money Laundering Act, the court is bound to confiscate the convicted person’s assets, including “any economic advantage and any property derived from or obtained, directly or indirectly, through criminal activity”.



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30 September 2009


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