After the Bavarian customs investigation had already investigated those responsible for a Nuremberg solar company, a press release issued by the Munich customs investigation office showed that numerous search warrants were enforced against participants in the solar industry yesterday.
Together with the customs investigation offices in Stuttgart and Frankfurt am Main, a total of 14 properties were searched. The background is that the customs investigation suspects that more than EUR 30 million in anti-dumping duties for solar modules have been evaded.
At present it can be seen that a comprehensive criminal prosecution of all import transactions of solar modules from China is now taking place. This is likely to continue in the coming months and years, as the authorities only have a gradual insight into how Chinese companies have deceived Chinese companies in some cases to a considerable extent when importing solar modules.
Evasion of anti-dumping duties on solar modules
In this case, as in the case of Risen Energy, there are suspicions that Chinese solar modules have been imported into the European Union and that the planned anti-dumping and countervailing duties have not been paid. According to press reports, this is another company from Nuremberg and three of those involved are already in custody.
Specifically, there are suspicions that the solar modules were brought into the EU with false origin information or that the minimum import price (MIP) was circumvented. It is presumed that such circumvention took place, for example, through compensation payments or disguised repayments. The customs investigation had also found that there were numerous dummy and letter-box companies in Luxembourg and Hong Kong with which the payment flows were to be disguised.
Currently, the customs investigation and the Nuremberg-Fürth public prosecutor’s office are focusing on more than 150 import transactions between November 2013 and November 2016. The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has also conducted extensive investigations in the past.
Need for action for customers of solar modules
Both importers and customers of solar modules should now be more vigilant. In the course of the investigation, there is the risk of even being subject to suspicion of tax fraud or evasion. In addition, there is also the risk for the customer of solar modules already cleared through customs (e.g. for DDP deliveries) to come into the focus of the customs administration both under criminal law and for any additional claims.
Entrepreneurs should therefore check whether possible recourse claims must be secured with their suppliers. It should also be evaluated whether own suppliers of solar modules may have avoided anti-dumping and countervailing duties on the solar modules supplied.
It is striking that the investigation is currently being led by the Munich Customs Investigation Office. However, further investigations and criminal proceedings are not excluded in the rest of Germany either.
If you have any questions about the current searches and your own imports, please do not hesitate to contact us.
You have questions about the preliminary proceedings or your own purchases of solar modules?