An international investigation has found that fraudsters tricked the Italian state out of an estimated €1.15 billion in VAT, through a complex system in which funds were reinvested in the Middle East.
Milan prosecutors were first alerted to the scam after UK and US secret services discovered documents in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan, close to where terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden was killed in 2011.
The investigation centred around Imran Yakub Ahmed, a 40-year-old British Pakistani who administered the SF Energy Trading company in Milan, Corriere della Sera said.
SF Energy Trading and another Italy-based company reportedly bought and sold carbon credits, which were traded between firms and states to meet their international environmental commitments.
The two companies in Italy were linked to an Anglo-Pakistani and a Franco-Israeli criminal organization, which used foreigners’ stolen identities and ties to dummy corporations in China to run the scam.
The carbon certificates were bought in France, Germany, Holland and the UK, then sold on to unsuspecting customers with an added 20 percent VAT fee. The Italian tax was never paid to authorities, but was instead transferred to bank accounts in Cyprus and Hong Kong before ending up in Dubai.
While failing to trace Imran Yakum Ahmed, investigators discovered that the funds had been reinvested into diamonds and property development in Dubai. Two luxury watches were also bought in Rome, at €50,000 each, Corriere reported.
Milan prosecutors reportedly said that the reinvestment could have been used to mask the financing of Islamic terrorist organizations.
Of more than a billion euros stolen from the state between 2009 and 2012, just €80 million has been reclaimed by Italian authorities.