Two 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 €100 million
and affecting 21 leasing companies, which have been defrauded of
€35 million. The cost to the state for the loss of tax revenue
amounts to €50 million.

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

The GdF investigation, which lasted over a
year, has revealed that 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 and earth moving
equipment. 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 €5 million. Charges have been
pressed against 117 people, including 25 for criminal conspiracy to
commit fraud and money laundering.

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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

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.