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Customs detects significant smuggling of e-cigarettes

Publication date 30.1.2024 10.10
Press release

Customs has uncovered a major case of smuggling involving e-cigarettes, or so-called vapes, in the Helsinki region. The suspect who is from Lappeenranta ordered illicit e-cigarettes from China, and sought significant proceeds of crime by selling the vapes. The activity will eventually result in high costs that the suspect must pay.

Customs detected the illicit import of e-cigarettes while conducting regular customs controls at a courier terminal in the Helsinki region. The detected consignment comprised about one thousand e-cigarettes that contained nicotine. When investigating the matter, Customs found out that the suspect had ordered about 1 600 e-cigarettes from China during 2023. Customs was able to seize about a thousand e-cigarettes, while 600 e-cigarettes ended up in consumption.

As a rule, e-cigarettes that Customs seizes contain nicotine. In everyday language, the term “vape” also refers to products that do not contain nicotine.

– At Customs we have observed that young persons order vapes to an increasing extent. Not all of those persons always know that it is illegal to order and distribute e-cigarettes. Once you get caught doing that, it always entails criminal liability, says investigation leader Marko Laitinen.

Internet orders of e-cigarettes can have long-term effects. The type and scope of any uncovered criminal offence are always relevant in terms of consequences. In cases involving e-cigarettes, penalties may range from a fine to imprisonment. Criminal proceeds of thousands of euros can turn into heavy costs to the State.

– As a rule, the person involved must pay the amount of evaded taxes and the possible criminal proceeds to the State. The sums to be paid can be very substantial, and a person may have to pay them for years on end. Furthermore, if the penalty is imprisonment, a criminal record can make a young person’s life difficult in many situations, Mr Laitinen says.

Contents of illegal vapes are unknown

Private persons are not allowed to order e-cigarettes or liquids containing nicotine from outside of Finland by means of distance communication, for example through the Internet.

– E-cigarettes may also involve a serious health risk. Nobody knows the contents of illicitly imported vapes. They may contain chemicals that are hazardous to health, says Marko Laitinen.

The person based in Lappeenranta is suspected of tax fraud and smuggling. In addition to facing possible criminal consequences, the suspect may be required to pay several thousands of euros in criminal proceeds to the State. The suspect may also be obligated to pay several thousands of euros in import duties. Customs has transferred the case to the Prosecution District of Southern Finland who will decide on criminal charges.

Media release