German custom authorities uncovers fraud involving solar modules from China

More than €30 million in anti-dumping and countervailing duties could have been evaded by a Nuremberg-based company when importing Chinese PV modules.

This is the preliminary result of an investigation that is being conducted by the Customs Office of Munich. Its investigators executed three arrest warrants on Monday and searched a total of 14 homes and businesses in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate. In addition, documents were confiscated at solar parks in Baden-Württemberg, in Germany’s southwest.

Further related charges were pending, a spokesman for the Customs Office of Munich confirmed upon request from pv magazine. Overall, the amount of the outstanding duties on imported solar modules is in the three-digit million range.

According to the customs investigation office in Munich, in the current case there is the suspicion that the solar modules produced in China are imported into the European Union from the People’s Republic of China via the ports of Rotterdam and Hamburg, by means of false declarations or circumvention of existing regulations.

The case of alleged tax fraud relates current minimum import price (MIP) regime, which is designed prevent the importation of cheap Chinese solar imports into the EU and protect European PV producers. According to this current investigation, compliance with the MIP was merely faked through the use of disguised repayments or through the manipulation of assembly and accessory costs.

A complex and opaque collection of letter-box companies in Luxembourg and Hong Kong had disguised payment flows during the module sales or transfers.

The authorities report that the investigation has ensnared seven people of Chinese and German citizenship aged between 41 and 56 years accused, all of whom are based in Germany. According to the customs authorities, these individuals are suspected of acting as traders or purchases on behalf of a producer based in China. Thus, the producer, which has not been named could place its PV modules at favourable rates on the German market.

The investigation carried out by customs agents and the Nuremberg-Fürth Public Prosecutor’s Office involved a total of more than 150 imports during the period from November 2013 to November 2016.

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