Customs’ enforcement has responded comprehensively to the sanctions against Russia
The export and import sanctions imposed by the EU on Russia over the past year are comprehensive. Each new sanctions package has in turn extended the enforcement and has reinforced the aim of the previous packages. Based on customs declarations in the last year, Customs has discovered close to 21 000 potentially irregular shipments. Of these, more than 1 300 cases were subject to a targeted control and around 300 cases were referred for preliminary investigation. The sanctions have also had a significant impact on the international flows of goods.
The nine sanctions packages of the past year have shaped the EU's sanctions against Russia in a comprehensive way and the categories of goods covered by the sanctions are extensive. Customs supervises the enforcement of export and import sanctions in respect of cross-border flows of goods.
– Currently, we have focused in particular on how we can prevent the circumvention of sanctions, for example through countries outside the EU. Right from the first package of sanctions, we have tried to carry out the supervision of sanctions comprehensively and therefore actively highlighted the phenomena that have hindered the effectiveness of the sanctions and, if necessary, leaks have been plugged in the sanctions regulations, says the director of the Enforcement Department Sami Rakshit.
Goods traffic at the eastern border has decreased significantly – the need for customs control has increased
The goods traffic at the Finnish eastern border has decreased significantly because of the sanctions. Customs enforces sanctions based on acquired information as extensively as possible, and screens products subject to sanctions from the flow of goods based on risk analysis. Moreover, Customs assists in the identification and localisation of property of individuals and entities on the EU sanctions lists.
The export shipments subject to sanctions have contained many IT products, other high-tech products as well as so-called luxury products, but the variation is very wide due to the coverage of the sanctions.
– The need for customs controls has increased due to the scale of export and import sanctions, and we have directed our resources as needed. We enforce sanctions as a part of our customary enforcement work at the customs offices. During the year, we have carried out targeted inspections of more than 1 300 goods transports and sent a separate statement request regarding around 650 transports to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which in the end has outlined whether or not the product is subject to sanctions. The cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been close and good, says Mikko Grönberg, Enforcement Director.
A year of changes in international trade
The sanctions imposed by the EU against Russia have also had a significant impact on the international trade in goods. Currently, 95 per cent of Finland’s international trade is transported by sea. The number of companies doing business with Russia has decreased significantly. Finnish Customs has estimated that currently about 40 Finnish companies import products from Russia, and about 220 companies engage in export to Russia.
– In the foreign trade of goods, last year was a year of changes. Trade with Russia decreased rapidly from March onwards. Especially imports were quickly replaced by products from other countries, says Olli-Pekka Penttilä, Director of Statistics.
Three hundred regulation offences referred for preliminary investigation last year – only a few in previous years
Most transports under sanctions were stopped in road traffic. Preliminary investigations related to the violation of export sanctions were started involving transports containing e.g. computers, phones, drones, routers and microchips and microcontrollers, as well as products relating to boats and boating. We have also started preliminary investigations of transports of so-called luxury products and cash currency to Russia.
In all, more than 300 regulation offences were subjected to preliminary investigation. Of these, around 140 were subjected to limited preliminary investigation procedures relating to fines and around 190 cases were subjected to a normal preliminary investigation because of sanctions violations.
– Last year caused a huge increase in the number of suspected regulation offences referred for preliminary investigation. In general, there have been a few cases per year, but over three hundred last year. Charges are being considered in about ten cases, and the courts have given sentences in some cases. So the processes are lengthy, says Enforcement Director Hannu Sinkkonen.
– Generally speaking, it could be said that in many cases the transports referred for preliminary investigation have contained IT products, such as routers, microchips and micro controllers in quantities that are significant in terms of the scale of things in Finland, Sinkkonen continues.