I don’t usually like to post negative things about Murano but this one is such a large scandal that it warrants publishing. First let me say that no tourist was harmed. The only harm in this diabolically clever scam was the Italian Government. With a ~45% tax rate, you can see how it would be inviting to avoid the tax. And more importantly, we do not work with any of those involved as they are all “tourist showrooms”.
However, it was unfortunate that the State decided to raid the vetrerie (glass furnaces) in Murano on the same week as the Glass Art Conference, an investigation that had been ongoing for a couple of years. Certainly Murano did not look its best, though probably few of the 1800 participants in the conference actually knew what was going on as the locals gossiped about this ingenious plan and we waited for the other shoe to fall.
A Blitz by the Guardia di Finanza (equivalent to the US IRS) gave this account of what transpired since about 2013. At least 8 Vetrerie (furnaces) were part of the conspiracy with a “money changer” from the mainland who orchestrated the scam.
Each of the glass furnaces names in the indictment were given POS machines by the head of the scam which they used for transactions in their showrooms, but only with foreign customers. All the monies were deposited into a single bank account controlled by the head of the group. He in turn went to the bank and withdrew the funds deposited from these transactions apparently every day.
He then met with the owners of the glass showrooms and handed them in cash 95% of what they sold. I am sure it was a bit more complicated because each POS sale also incurs a percentage for processing. But the showroom owners were given cash by the head of this scam. He pocketed the 5% for his effort.
The receipts were destroyed, the money went into the pocket of the glass factories and nothing was ever reported to the Italian Government, thereby committing fraud against the Italian Government.
The investigation centers on a Venetian, Claudio Pellarin, (resident in Mestre) and his anonymous office “Venexto” in Castello, between San Lio and la Fava. For the investigators, he is the center of the scam.
The investigation alleges an evasion of 5.4 million euros between 2013 and February of this 2018 and unlawful profits for Pellarin alone for 1.390 million euros, undeclared.
The suspects. Under investigation, with Pellarin are the legal heads of eight glass factories or showrooms and all are accused of “fraudulent declaration in income”, for having evaded the taxes. Of the 5.4 million unpaid, 3.3 are disputed to Elisabetta Bianchini, Bisanzio Gallery and her husband Leone Panisson.
Others under investigation are: Massimiliano Schiavon of the Art Team (684 thousand euros); Michele Zampedri of Vetreria Artistica Vivarini (for 174 thousand euros); Giorgia Schiavon of the Reno Schiavon Artistic Glassworks (188 thousand euros); Nicola Foccardi of the Murano Art Line (for 204 thousand euros); Carlo Masotti of the Vetreria Murano Arte (€ 123 thousand); Umberto Cenedese of Ars Cenedese Murano (159 thousand euros) and Roberto Aseo for 634 thousand euros. (Names identified the Newspaper you see below so a matter of public record.)
The breadth of this evasion is stunning as is the names of some of the most famous glass furnaces in Murano. The state froze the assets of these companies, which affects not only their bank accounts, but their ability to pay their workers and the companies who supply them with merchandise. (The headlines from the local paper on 25 May says it all. Well in addition to the arrest of the head of a pickpocket gang, good news for all.) More about the pickpockets later as I experienced them firsthand…nothing taken but I now can identify them.
As I said in the beginning of this post, no individual who purchased glass was harmed, only the evasion of taxes to the Italian Government. We will have to wait to see how this unfolds in the courts, which will prove to be lengthy.