German customs authorities accuse IBC Solar of smuggling Chinese PV modules

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From pv magazine Germany.

Although the minimum import price applied by the EU to Chinese solar modules imported by European businesses ended 14 months ago, Germany’s customs authorities are continuing to investigate alleged breaches of the trade measure.

The customs investigation office in Munich today announced Nuremberg-based investigators and the public prosecutor’s office have accused German solar company IBC Solar of circumventing the duties. The head office of the company and the private apartments of board members were searched at the end of last month, said the Munich office, and the documents found are being evaluated.

IBC Solar is accused of having purchased incorrectly-declared solar modules from China around 60 times between March 2015 and August 2016, labelling them as originating from India, Taiwan, Malaysia or Vietnam. The result, allege the authorities, was the avoidance of around €23 million of import duties.

‘Deliberate action’

The Munich office stated its investigators are accusing the importer of deliberately obscuring the genuine country of origin of the products to avoid the relevant countervailing and anti-dumping duties.

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An IBC Solar spokeswoman initially told pv magazine: “We cooperate fully with the authorities and are still evaluating the facts. Therefore, we cannot say anything about the ongoing proceedings yet.” The company has since claimed it was deceived by its importers.

In autumn 2017, the Nuremberg-Fürth Regional Court convicted four people of the purchase and sale of smuggled Chinese solar modules which resulted in the avoidance of €110 million in duties. The main suspect had evaded the authorities at that point. The defendants were convicted of commercial tax evasion with one receiving a one-year prison sentence and another four months.

Other smuggling cases are still under investigation and the customs authority told pv magazine in May Chinese nationals were arrested at that month’s Intersolar Europe trade show in connection with the suspected smuggling of modules.

The EU Prosun European solar manufacturing lobby group, which backed the EU trade measures imposed in 2013, has estimated European taxpayers have lost out to the tune of up to €400 million as a result of the avoidance of duties on Chinese panels when the measures were in force.

This article was amended at 9am on November 23 to add IBC Solar’s claim it had been deceived by its importers.