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 have carried out three arrest warrants on Monday and searched a total of 14 residential and business premises in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate. In addition, business documents were confiscated in solar parks in Baden-Württemberg.

Further cases were pending, a spokesman for the Customs Office of Munich has confirmed upon request from pv magazine. Overall, the amount of the outstanding custom sums for 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 seaports of Rotterdam and Hamburg by means of false facts or circumvention of existing regulations.

The starting point for the alleged tax fraud was, therefore, the current minimum import price (MIP) regulation, which should prevent Chinese cheap solar imports and protect the European economy. According to the current state of the investigation, compliance with the MIP was merely faked and has been undercut by disguised repayments or manipulation of assembly and accessory costs. A tricky and untransparent model of letter-box companies in Luxembourg and Hong Kong had disguised payment flows during business processing.

As the authorities further report, there are seven persons 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 buyers on behalf of a producer based in China. Thus, this producer could place their PV modules favorably on the German market.

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