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Taxman boils rice to nail restaurant owner

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The Swedish taxman decided to get cooking. File: Shutterstock
12:14 CEST+02:00
The Swedish tax agency (Skatteverket) has uptaxed a restaurant in southern Sweden after investigators launched "Operation Rice Cooking", and turned to a saucepan to prove the fraud.

Tax agents in Skövde decided to investigate their suspicion that a popular restaurant was not logging all its sales - a common method to make profits look smaller and thus avoid taxes in Sweden.

During a four-hour stretch, the agents noted that the restaurant staff neglected to enter 25 orders at the till. When the tax agents seized the restaurant order books, which had information about how much rice the restaurant bought from its supplier, the owner said that the restaurant threw away quite a lot of food.

The restaurant owner also claimed that each portion had 200 grammes of uncooked rice. To prove the suspected fraud, the investigators would have to boil some rice of their own. At first glance, the restaurant was buying much more rice than it was selling, so the agents headed to the kitchen.

The tax agents decided to cook the 200 grammes themselves - to put the amount in proportion, Swedish food-store chain Ica recommends 60 grammes for a meal.

They ended up with enough cooked rice to fill up almost two pint glasses (the volume was 0.78 litres) - far more than a recommended portion and, crucially, a lot more rice than what would fit into one of the restaurant's own aluminium take-out boxes.

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The agents concluded that the amount of rice proved their theory that the restaurant had more customers than it had logged at the till.

The restaurant owner appealed the added tax but an administrative court upheld the rice-cooking agents' conclusion. 

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