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Greek and Bulgarian police revealed interstate "laundry" for dirty money

18 August 2011 / 15:08:41  GRReporter
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Members of the Bulgarian mafia are running money-laundering industry in northern Greece with the participation of 25 local companies, reads a publication in the Greek press today.

According to an article in To Vima newspaper, 25 Greek companies, cooperating with dozens of alleged Bulgarian firms, have been making invalid transactions worth hundreds of millions euro per year to receive illegal VAT, while earning huge amounts from drug, people and weapons trafficking in Bulgaria.

"At least two of the Greek companies involved are very popular and their owners have not demonstrated in any way that they are involved in criminal activities," said senior police officers.

The newly established Financial Police and the service prosecuting electronic crime in cooperation with the Bulgarian police are investigating the case. In Sofia, the National Service for Combating Organised Crime at the Ministry of Interior is working on the case.

According to Greek police officers, it is "an unprecedented case of money laundering and tax fraud." In early May, the Greek Minister of Citizen Protection Christos Papoutsis had referred to the case after meeting the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of Bulgaria Tsvetanov on April 20.

Christos Papoutsis had declared, "This will be the first major case which the new department to pursue economic and electronic crime will take. The investigation is conducted in cooperation with the Bulgarian authorities and I hope we will have good results."  Then, it was noted for the first time that it is a "very serious case of financial crime and not only."

On the Greek side, the investigation started several months ago, when their Bulgarian colleagues informed the heads of the Economic Police, which was not established at that time yet, about "suspicious transactions between Greek and Bulgarian companies."

Both states soon joined forces to discover what was going on. The fact that the director of the Greek Economic Police Adamantios Stamatakis is a member of the body to combat laundering of money from criminal activities gives the case special importance, beyond the police investigation.

According to the data collected, Bulgarian businessmen having close contacts with the mafia in the country have connected with Greek businessmen from northern Greece who had perfectly legal trade connections with Bulgarian companies initially. Then, they made a chain of fictitious companies, using money obtained from drug, people and weapons trafficking.

According to the findings, the Greek companies were carrying fake imports and exports of large quantities of food and other products in cooperation with companies from Bulgaria under the scheme, which the police authorities call "roundabout". The companies issued original invoices for fake imports in order to obtain huge amounts of VAT, which they have never paid actually.

Greek and Bulgarian officers working on the case have turned their attention to the procedures and means, which the gang used to launder the dirty money through the specific companies.

GRReporter contacted the Greek police spokesman Athanasios Kokkalakis to comment on the case. Although he is on leave and is not informed in detail, he said that the Greek police are in constant cooperation with the police authorities in other countries in order to investigate cases involving criminal acts. Athanasios Kokkalakis, however, pointed out that even if he had detailed information on the case he would not be able to provide data for an ongoing investigation.

Tags: Crime newsInvestigationEconomic policeNational Service for Combating Organised CrimeMoney launderingTraffickingDrugsWeaponsCompaniesVAT
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