Greece’s tax evasion authorities are reported to have issued fines of €600m to the representatives of three German car manufacturers following the uncovering of a massive scam whereby top-range cars were exported to Greece at extremely low factory prices in order to avoid luxury taxes and duties.
The investigation, which was initiated last year by the Financial and Economic Crime Unit (SDOE), is focused on luxury cars manufactured by BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Opel that were imported into Greece from 2011 to 2013. The investigation also involved the European Anti-fraud Office (Olaf).
When the investigation was first reported last December by the German news magazine Der Spiegel, Theodoros Floratos, head of the Financial and Economic Crime Unit (SDOE), confirmed the identity of the three carmakers.
As an example, Der Spiegel’s report mentioned the Mercedes-Benz S 500 CGI Blue Efficiency that had an in-house importer price of only €22,135, but which retailed at almost six times that, for €124,450 (including taxes). As the tax system uses the factory price as a base for a number of taxes, including VAT and luxury taxes, the lower this price, the less revenue paid to the treasury.
It is understood that some of the cars are a different model to that indicated on the chassis, resulting in one case of an owner being told that it is illegal to use the car. According to a detailed report in the FM Voice newspaper, one of these models is the BMW 520i.
FM Voice journalist George Andris, who wrote the report, said that in one shipment of 1,029 vehicles from Germany, only 829 cars were cleared by customs. Of the remaining 200 missing vehicles, 99 were manufactured by BMW.
The SDOE has instructed the relevant tax authority for large enterprises to collect the €600m fine. However, under current legislation, the authorities are obliged to broaden the investigation to a decade and other businesses. According to the StoKokkino.gr website, the evidence suggests that the total fraud could amount to €4bn.