Italian Tax Police Raid Reveals Chinese Hand in Military Drone Maker

Tax resistance and evasion often is linked to intentional fight against transparency in “business” practices.

This played out recently when Italian “tax police” investigated a national security vendor and pulled a thread that went all the way to China.

The alarm was prompted by a raid last year by Italian tax police on Alpi Aviation, a firm in Pordenone in northern Italy which produces the Strix UAV.

Weighing 10kg with a three meter wingspan, the Strix can relay video and infrared imagery in real time and was used by Italy’s special forces in Afghanistan.

Investigators said a 75% share in the firm was purchased in 2018 at an inflated price by a Hong Kong-based company in turn controlled by Chinese state firms, which planned to transfer production to China.

The sale allegedly violated Italy’s “Golden Power” law, under which defense firms, as well as strategic companies, can only be sold outside Italy with specific permission from the government.

The tax police said the firm failed to notify the Italian government of the change in ownership, then also broke Italian law on defense exports by failing to inform the government when it temporarily exported a drone for display at a 2019 Shanghai trade fair.

A 75% share in the company at inflated prices… it must have smelled so bad that financial crimes enforcement had to act.

The Strix has the interesting design criteria to fit in a backpack and use an easily recognizable yet low-signature profile, obviously meant for combat or at least “non-recreational” objectives.

Source: Alpi
Source: Alpi

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