More than 300 Italian restaurants in Germany have been caught using manipulated cash registers which allowed them to avoid paying tax.
The restaurant owners are accused of buying specialist cash registers which helped to hide their true earnings from the authorities.
Europe’s crime agency, Europol, raided 93 properties in Germany and seized €275,000 ($317,326).
With its help, the German Tax Office for Investigation and Criminal Matters and the Italian Finance Corps dismantled organised crime groups that were involved in tax fraud through the manipulation of cash registers.
Twenty-three people now face prosecution.
“The joint operation, supported by Europol, targeted a criminal network selling software solutions for cash registers enabling businesses to manipulate their daily sales records,” Europol said.
“Cash-intensive businesses such as restaurants were able to use these ‘tuned’ registers to manipulate their income and diminish their output VAT and corporate tax liability.
“The customers, mainly Italians established in Germany, acquired the cash registers and the software from an Italian supplier, who had developed this product.
“This IT solution enabled the businesses to access the database of the cash register securely and decide how much of their daily income to hide and how much to declare to the tax authorities.”
Investigators found more than 300 owners of Italian restaurants in Germany had bought the system.
The price of the machines was “significantly higher” than that of an ordinary cash register “that cannot manipulate financial records”, Europol said.