Prague, June 29 (CTK) – The Prague Municipal Court sent one Italian and two Czechs to prison for extensive missing trader (carousel) frauds causing the damage of 222 million crowns to the state on Wednesday.

Italian Mario Bertuccio is to spend eight years behind bars, while Czechs Rene Cerny and Robert Svacha were sentenced to five years each. Another two Czech accomplices were given suspended sentences.

According to the indictment, the defendants created a chain of companies that were trading with one another fictitiously with the aim to commit VAT evasion.

The court also banned the five gang members from sitting on statutory bodies of business companies and cooperatives. Bertuccio received the longest, ten-year ban.

The men faced up to ten years in prison for tax evasion originally.

“The main perpetrator was defendant Bertuccio. We suspect him of being the mastermind behind the idea,” court panel chairwoman Katerina Radkovska said.

From April 2010 till the end of 2011, the men applied a high number of unrightful VAT deductions for the sale of fictitious commodities at various places, mainly in Prague. They exported non-existing commodities, declared, for instance, as printers, to the EU countries through a chain of firms with straw men in their leadership.

The straw men did not keep books, issue invoices or provide any business activity. Bertuccio, Cerny, Vilem Roubicek and Svacha allegedly made invoices and declared the export to another EU member state, mainly Germany, Italy and Slovakia.

The recipients were mainly Slovak firms controlled by Bertuccio and Roubicek.

Bertuccio did not testify in court or to the police earlier.

The state attorney demanded his expulsion from the Czech Republic. However, it is not possible to impose it on him as he is an EU citizen staying in the Czech Republic for long.

The missing trader fraud si defined as the VAT theft from a government by organised crime gangs who exploit the way VAT is treated within multi-jurisdictional trading. It allows the fraudster to charge VAT on the sale of goods, and then instead of paying it to the authority to “go missing” with the VAT.