Former Latvian railway official wanted for massive tax fraud in Poland

Polish authorities suspect that Verners Lūsis, an official at a subsidiary of state-owned Latvian Railways (Latvijas Dzelzceļš), has engaged in tax fraud worth €48 million, reported LTV's De Facto February 4. 

The prosecutor's office in Bialystok says Lūsis is facing four different charges.  "The charges are for participating in a group that has engaged in illegal activities to avoid paying taxes. The charges are related to sales of liquid fuel, as well as products helping improve the quality of fuel," said Pavel Savon, a representative of the Bialystok prosecutor's office. 

De Facto says Savon's remarks indicate that the case seems to be a so-called 'carousel scheme', involving theft of Value Added Tax from a government by exploiting the way the tax is treated within multi-jurisdictional trading.

"We can only say the deals in question were made in 2014 and are related to fictitious fuel trade between Latvian, Polish and Hungarian firms. By making incorrect bills, the [perpetrators] caused Poland losses of more than 200 million zloty [about €48 million]," said Savon.

Lūsis has not offered comment on the case since being detained.

In 2014 Lūsis was the owner of a company called TF Europa, which had a turnaround of €20 million that year. The next year it dropped to below €1 million and shortly after the firm was shut down. 

Polish authorities started probing Lūsis' activities in earnest in 2016, sending international assistance requests to Latvia. That same year, Lūsis became board member at the LDz Loģistika company, which is engaged in transit and also represents a Russian state-owned cargo company.

Latvian authorities received an European Arrest Warrant from Poland for Lūsis and four other persons in late October, but he had left Latvia by the time the authorities were about to detain him. The Transport Ministry claims it did not know of the arrest warrant. 

Mārcis Viļums, a prosecutor at the General Prosecutor's international coordination office said he declined a prompt arrest as the crimes he's implicated in were carried out several years ago. 

He was eventually detained by Lithuanian authorities on January 10 after Latvian Police failed to arrest him while he was in Latvia.  

Lūsis is currently not behind bars, but has been banned from exiting Lithuania pending a court ruling on extradition.

As the news came to light, Lūsis stepped down as board member at the LDz Loģistika company, which is a subsidiary of Latvian Railways. He still holds a managing position at the company, which meanwhile says he can't be sacked during his absence. 

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