Art shipments detained at Vaalimaa have continued on to Russia
The art shipments detained last weekend at Vaalimaa by Finnish Customs left Finland today, 9 April 2022, at around 3 pm. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland granted an exceptional permit for the art shipments after an amendment of the EU regulation on sanctions regarding works of art. Finnish Customs’ preliminary investigation of the case proceeded by concluding that the works of art are no longer needed as evidence in the investigation. After the Ministry for Foreign Affairs granted the exceptional permit, there were also no longer any obstacles to allowing the works of art to leave the country.
The European Union has imposed extensive sanctions against Russia due to the attack on Ukraine. As the implementing authority, Finnish Customs’ tasks include enforcing the sanctions on goods traffic agreed at EU level. On 1 and 2 April 2022, Finnish Customs in Vaalimaa detained three consignments containing works of art destined for Russia. Works of art arriving from Italy and Japan en route to Russia via Finland were transported in trucks. The works of art have been stored in Finland with full consideration for their value, characteristics and safety.
The EU made a joint decision to amend the regulation (2022/428) on sanctions in respect of works of art. The amendment entered into force on 9 April 2022 and it enables transfers of works of art subject to sanctions between museums with an exceptional permit granted by the competent authority, which in Finland is the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
Finnish Customs is undertaking a preliminary investigation in the matter. The preliminary investigation has proceeded by concluding that the works of art are no longer needed as evidence in the investigation. After the Ministry for Foreign Affairs granted the exceptional permit, there were also no longer any obstacles to allowing the works of art to leave the country.
“Our task is to supervise all cross-border goods transport and to enforce any sanctions that may apply to the goods, and our activities are always based on the legislation currently in force; in this case, the amendment to the sanctions regulation that was jointly agreed at the EU-level and entered into force last night, as well as the exceptional permit granted by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs,” says Sami Rakshit, Director of the Enforcement Department of Finnish Customs.
The preliminary investigation of the case will proceed as normal, since the EU sanctions regulation that was in force at the moment of detention required Finnish Customs to detain the goods covered by the prohibition and to carry out a preliminary investigation if needed. The preliminary investigation will continue in the form of international cooperation between authorities, among other measures.
At every step, the works of art have been handled in strict accordance with instructions provided by museum professionals.