Woman held in suspected tax scam

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Police in the Oslo area say they’re facing one of their biggest tax evasion cases ever, after a 36-year-old woman was arrested and jailed earlier this month. Investigators believe she helped as many as 2,000 people living all over the country, most of them with immigrant background, evade taxes amounting to at least NOK 40 million.

Tax authorities here at Skatt Øst, the regional tax office for eastern Norway, face a huge new tax investigation. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Tax authorities here at Skatt Øst, the regional tax office for eastern Norway, face a huge new tax investigation. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

“When professional accomplices contribute to others cheating on their taxes, the consequences can be huge,” Jan-Egil Kristiansen of the regional tax authority Skatt Øst told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN).

The woman, who lives in Lørenskog, northeast of Oslo, is charged with evading both income taxes and Norway’s VAT, and with being an accomplice to evasion by others as well. She allegedly earned NOK 8 million herself during the years she worked as an allegedly crooked tax adviser.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported that the woman is a Norwegian citizen but with Vietnamese background, and police say most all her clients also have foreign backgrounds, mostly from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Iraq. Kristiansen told Aftenposten that the charges against her are serious, also because they involve an organized network. The woman also holds a leading position in a Vietnamese organization.

“This is probably the most widespread tax case we’ve ever had here in Romerike,” prosecutor Hanne Fauske of the Romerike Police District told Aftenposten. Lørenskog is located in Romerike, while the woman reportedly ran some of her business from Stovner in Oslo.

Asked how she recruited her clients, Fauske told DN that “it seemed to be through the grapevine. There has clearly been a market for her services.”

The woman was arrested February 1 and held in jail for 14 days. Her defense attorney wouldn’t comment beyond saying that her client denies she’s guilty of any crimes.

Tax authorities and prosecutors, however, claim she helped her clients claim false deductions on their own tax returns amounting to around NOK 140 million. She also allegedly evaded income tax herself and failed to register VAT on the  fees she charged her clients.

Assets seized
The case is already being compared to the massive tax evasion carried out by taxi drivers and owners in recent years, and police said some of the woman’s clients are also in the taxi business. “There are similarities,” Kristiansen told reporters. “We have an organizer and a lot of people involved. We fear the (tax evasion) amounts involved will continue to grow.”

The woman officially ran two business involving photocopying services and telephone sales. The alleged tax evasion came to light when large deposits were made to both firms, and no VAT could be tied to the money. Police and tax authorities raided four addresses tied to the woman’s activities and found documentation of tax consulting work that involved fabricated tax deductions and how much they had reduced her clients’ tax liability. She then took a cut of the allegedly manipulated tax savings.

Police also found NOK 200,000 (about USD 36,000) in cash and seized large amounts of documents and computer files. “This will be a demanding investigation,” Fause told Aftenposten. Tax authorities also made immediate claims on many of the woman’s assets including real estate, a bank account and a boat.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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