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March 28, 2011updated 12 Apr 2017 4:15pm

Italian lessors hit by scams costing millions

In one case, which has been dubbed Operation Caterpillar, the Venice arm of Guardia di Finanza (GdF) police has uncovered fraudulent activity amounting to more than 100m and affecting 21 leasing companies, which have been defrauded of 35m

By Antonio Fabrizio

Huge fraud involving false assets costs Italian funders €35m, writes Antonio Fabrizio.

 

Photograph of the Guardia di Finanza fraud swoopTwo police operations in Italy have unearthed criminal activity which has cost Italian leasing and insurance companies millions of euros.

In one case, which has been dubbed Operation Caterpillar, the Venice arm of Guardia di Finanza (GdF) police has uncovered fraudulent activity amounting to more than €100m and affecting 21 leasing companies, which have been defrauded of €35m. The cost to the state for the loss of tax revenue amounts to €50m.

GdF have confirmed Italy’s major lessors, including UniCredit Leasing, Leasint, UBI Leasing, Hypo Alpe Adria and BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions were among the victims of the scam.

The GdF investigation, which lasted over a year, has revealed around 150 firms were involved to some extent in the fraud since 2003. The scheme was agreed between lessees and suppliers. The lessees would fake documents to provide evidence of their financial soundness in order to get the financing from the lessors – mostly for construction plant.

At the same time, the suppliers would fallaciously document the assets’ existence by counterfeiting the CE marking. No assets were actually sold or transferred in the process.

The lessees then falsely reported the theft of the equipment or, in some cases, declared bankruptcy. The proceeds of the crime were split between the lessees and suppliers, and ‘cleaned up’ by buying real estate and other assets.

GdF have arrested seven people and confiscated real estate and other assets worth €5m. Charges have been pressed against 117 people, including 25 for criminal conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering.

Separately, GdF in Genoa have crushed down a fraudulent operation which smuggled leased trucks into North Africa. The operation, dubbed Operation Trucks, has uncovered a scam set up by a number of Calabria-based firms to dodge lessors.

The companies rented new trucks from the leasing companies, and after regularly paying the lease for some months, they suddenly stopped their payments. They then took the vehicles abroad, fabricating documents in order to dodge customs police controls, and reported the theft of the trucks.

As the leasing companies had insurance coverage against theft, insurance companies have been hit by the plot. The police have confiscated six trucks, each worth €150,000, and located an additional nine in Libya and Egypt. Charges have been brought against 12 people.

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