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Police launch wide-scale tax-evasion crackdown

Palermo, Trento in Treasury's sights

21 February, 14:17
Police launch wide-scale tax-evasion crackdown (ANSA) - Palermo, February 21 - Police were conducting a large-scale tax-evasion sweep in Palermo on Tuesday after announcing that a similar crackdown in Trento found merchants had dodged 17% of what they owed. Dozens of officers in the Sicilian capital were performing random checks on shopkeepers after a police report showed merchants in the northern Trentino province were delinquent on a large range of taxes. Of 250 employees questioned, roughly 30 were paid under the table. Of 350 transactions that police reviewed, 60 were either reported incorrectly or not declared at all. Police also randomly stopped luxury vehicles in the Alpine region over the weekend and were verifying owners' tax records. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Tuesday called tax evasion "a terrible scourge" that is partly responsible for "the explosion of our debt". With cash needed to balance the budget by 2013 and emerge from the debt crisis, Premier Mario Monti has launched a drive against tax cheats, who he recently said "are giving poisoned bread to their children".

The campaign has featured a number of headline-grabbing operations among rich tourists in Cortina d'Ampezzo and the Ligurian Riviera, shoppers at exclusive stores in Rome and nightclub owners in Milan.

Italy's internal revenue agency has said that it will ramp up the pressure further by introducing a new system to find evaders by cross-checking incomes and spending by the end of June.

The tax agency last year estimated that around 120 billion euros' worth of undeclared business was done on the Italian underground economy each year.

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