EU Prosecutors Charge 4 for Smuggling Luxury Cars

Published: 13 January 2023

EPPO Luxury CarsLuxury cars were imported without paying customs duties and import tax. (Photo: EPPO, License)

By Vinicius Madureira

German prosecutors have charged four people after investigators of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office found they had used forged custom papers to import more than 40 luxury cars worth millions from non-EU countries without paying the full customs and tax amounts in the EU.

One of the suspects is also accused of money laundering. Prosecutors in Hanover and Hamburg claim he was fully aware of the illegality of the import of his car, the European Public Prosecutor’s Office said in a news release.

The cars - valued some US$15 million - were imported mostly from Russia and Asia and brought into the EU through Lithuania and the Netherlands. The group deceived customs authorities there by submitting papers that claimed the cars were damaged in order to get the  lowest possible customs clearance.

This way they deprived the budget of some US$3.5 million.

Once in the EU, the cars were sold through the suspects’ dealerships, according to the statement.

After dozens of vehicles were declared as damaged, EU customs authorities checked the cars and found that they “were not defective or damaged in any way.”

Investigators accused the four car retailers of “both gang and professional smuggling, and the evasion of import duties.”

Over the course of the investigations, European prosecutors seized a number of such cars, valued a total of US$1 million.

The European Union launched the EPPO in 2021 as a unique supranational public prosecution office in charge of investigations and prosecutions of crimes against the Union’s budget.

Those are mostly cases of fraud related to expenditures and revenues, VAT if it involves two or more Member States and is worth at least 10 million euros (US$12.2 million), money laundering of assets derived from defrauding the EU budget, corruption or misappropriation that affect the EU’s financial interests.