The Spanish Civil Guard, supported by Europol, have uncovered an unusual vehicle tax avoidance scheme and that resulted in the arrest of 20 individuals and the seizure of 11 vehicles. Criminals acquired high-end vehicles outside the EU and tried to avoid paying taxes by claiming they bought the cars in Italy.
Operation Puledro began in April 2017 when law enforcement authorities found a car stolen from Poland on Spanish roads. Investigations revealed that members of a criminal ring dismantled in 2014 were operating again, this time with a new scheme to avoid paying taxes.
Criminals first bought luxury cars in Switzerland then took them to Spain, thereby evading all the checks and border controls. Once the vehicles passed their annual safety tests in Spain, the members of the network registered the cars with fake documents, pretending they bought them in Italy.
After two years of investigation, police searched ten houses in Spain, arrested twenty individuals and seized eleven vehicles. It is estimated that the trafficked vehicles were worth around €150 000.
Europol supported this operation from the beginning by cross-checking information and deploying an analyst on-the-spot with a Universal Forensic Extraction Device (UFED) which allowed real-time cross-checks of the data gathered during the course of the operation. Europol’s experts were able to extract information from nine devices, while the remaining three are being analysed at Europol’s forensic lab.