Massive tax fraud unearthed by Italian police; officials targeted

A Rome-based tax advisor was at the centre of a massive tax avoidance scheme that was aided by a range of public officials and saw the state cheated out of 10 million euros (11.1 million dollars) of income, financial police said Monday.

The fraud was pulled off with the help of corrupt public officials, a lobbyist and a national lawmaker, the Guardia di Finanza said in a statement. Names were not given.

Twelve people were arrested, including two employees of Italy's tax collection agency, while another 12 were placed under house arrest. Assets worth more than 1.2 million euros were seized.

The suspects have been charged with various crimes, including tax fraud, corruption, money laundering and embezzlement.

The tax advisor at the centre of the case put in place a complex web of companies used over the years to evade more than 10 million euros through false invoices. The money was used for "illicit purposes," police said without elaborating.

His lobbyist accomplice - based in Rome, but originally from the 'Ndrangheta-Mafia infested southern region of Calabria - had high-level political contacts and would influence appointments in public sector agencies and rig their public tenders.

A lawmaker who "actively" helped him in these illegal influence-peddling activities has been placed under investigation, police said.

The parliamentarian was named by the ANSA news agency as Antonio Marotta, a member of the New Centre Right party of Interior Minister Angelino Alfano. Party colleagues stood by Marotta and said they were confident of his innocence.

ANSA and other Italian media also identified the lobbyist caught up in the affair as Raffaele Pizza. His brother Giuseppe was a junior minister in the 2008-11 conservative government of Silvio Berlusconi.

Last update: Mon, 04/07/2016 - 17:12

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