The Majorca Daily Bulletin newspaper in Spain's Balearic Isles reported yesterday that some 30 yachts have been boarded for inspection in Puerto Portals and Port Adriano as part of an investigation into €30 million of unpaid VAT and matriculation taxes.
"The report is correct," Barbara Müller, a Palma-based charter broker with Ocean Independence, told me this morning. "There was a charter yacht implicated here, but none of our legal yachts for charter were involved."
Anne Sterringa, a Palma-based charter broker with Camper and Nicholsons International, also confirmed today that the report is true, adding that many of the yachts have actually been "immobilized." She says that she is not aware of any charter yachts being seized for chartering without a license, which would be a different charge than failure to pay VAT, sales taxes, or matriculation taxes.
The Daily Bulletin report does not offer any names of yachts inspected, though it does state that many of the yachts targeted by investigators are flagged outside of the European Union.
One of the photographs shows officers boarding the 82-foot Elegance motoryacht Vogue, which reportedly is an owner-operated charter yacht that, to my knowledge, is not affiliated with any international management companies.
The article also states that the investigation includes not just yachts themselves, but also businesses related to the buying and selling of yachts, and that further inspections of additional yachts are expected in the coming weeks.
Sterringa said the Balearic Association of Nautical Enterprises is working with affected yacht owners to provide legal advice and get the vessels released as soon as possible.
Spain's investigation comes less than a month after Italian authorities seized the 207-foot charter yacht Force Blue in La Spezia on similar charges. It also comes amid reports that Spain's economy continues to be a source of concern to world financial institutions, as most recently reported less than 24 hours ago by The Associated Press.
Just a few months ago, there was charter industry confusion about which yachts are actually legal to charter in Spain. You may recall this blog post that I uploaded after Ocean Independence made clear that its yachts are, in fact, legal to charter in Spain.
That claim was borne out yesterday, when none of the Ocean Independence charter yachts were included in the tax probe.
"There is a lot of scaremongering here in Spain in the newspaper," Müller said today, adding, "if you decide to write about it, please reiterate that there are some legal charter yachts--including all of our fleet--in Spain."