German solar company IBC Solar moved quickly at the weekend to point the figure of blame at its importers after its offices and the homes of executives were searched by customs officials over the alleged avoidance of €23 million in import duties.
The customs investigation office in Munich on Friday said Nuremberg-based staff had accused IBC Solar of purchasing incorrectly declared solar modules around 60 times between March 2015 and August 2016. The public prosecutor’s office has alleged the modules in question were manufactured in China but their country of origin had been deliberately obscured by importers to avoid the minimum import price applied by the EU onto Chinese-made products during that period.
With investigators confirming the offices of IBC Solar and the private residences of executives were searched late last month, use of the word “importer” by the Munich office could prove critical as IBC on Saturday stated it had itself been the victim of fraud perpetrated by the importer it uses to buy modules.
“The properties of IBC Solar and those responsible for the company were … searched in October,” stated IBC Solar on Saturday. “IBC Solar will cooperate fully with the prosecutor. As part of the investigation, the company has voluntarily and without compulsion provided a security of €6 million.”
In the statement, IBC Solar chief executive Udo Möhrstedt offered the following explanation: “We are one of the victims of this large scale fraud. We have always purchased only solar modules from importers in the European Union at reasonable market prices, which were properly declared. In doing so, we have done everything in our power to ensure the correct declaration of the origin of the goods. This was confirmed in several circumstances by customs authorities. As a leading company for photovoltaics and energy storage, it is in our greatest interest that the fraud will be fully explained.”
The company went on to add it will sue importers and suppliers which the public prosecutor’s office finds have intentionally hidden the real source of Chinese-made modules.