German customs bureau launches another probe into illegal PV module imports

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Around 100 German Customs (Zoll) officials raided offices and searched private homes in Munich, Stuttgart, Hamburg and Berlin this week, as part of an investigation into illegal solar module shipments from China.
A total of 14 enforced search warrants were directed against two companies, members of their management teams, and other witnesses. The authorities suspect that the importers dodged paying at least €33 million in anti-dumping duties and import sales taxes in connection with the shipments from China. The investigation is focused on 700 sea containers that came to Europe from China via the port of Rotterdam in 2014 and 2015. Approximately 480,000 illegal solar modules have been installed in PV systems in Germany and France as a result.

The Munich Customs Investigation Office has been investigating the companies with the Munich public prosecutor’s office since July 2019, the authorities said. The buyers are accused of violating minimum import regulations that were applicable at that time in the European Union.

The authorities said the suspects used “a well-known business model.” First, they demonstrated compliance with the applicable minimum import price but then they were later reimbursed. In the end, the customers paid Chinese market prices in violation of the minimum import price, the authorities explained. In addition, the customers avoided paying anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties, as well as the import sales tax.

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There have not been any arrests thus far, customs officials told pv magazine. The material must now be evaluated as evidence. In February of this year, the authorities searched the companies’ offices in Munich as part of the same investigation.