Investigations of leisure craft on the EU sanctions lists completed
Finnish Customs has completed its investigations concerning leisure craft detained due to the sanctions against Russia. Eight of the leisure craft subject to further investigations were transferred to the enforcement authorities, four underwent a tax audit and two cases have been referred for criminal investigation. Besides the vessels detained in the spring, Customs also made new detentions in the summer, both to find out their ownership and to prevent illegal attempts to take the leisure craft out of the country.
Customs investigated potential links of the leisure craft to persons and entities on the EU sanctions lists through close international cooperation.
“Several of the ownership chains showed that there were links to tax havens and other very complex arrangements. This made finding the entities subject to sanctions more difficult and time-consuming in many cases, and in some cases even impossible in practice. In the case of seven of the leisure craft, our further investigations showed that they could be linked to entities on the EU sanctions lists. In addition to these, we also reported one vessel to the enforcement authorities based on a tax audit,” says Sami Rakshit, director of the Enforcement Department of Finnish Customs.
Customs detained 21 leisure craft in the spring in order to investigate if there were links in their ownership to persons or entities on the sanctions lists imposed by the EU against Russia and Belarus. During the summer, Customs detained an additional six new leisure craft to investigate their ownership as regards the sanctions.
The sanctions prohibit all exports of watercraft to Russia
“Besides sanctions against individuals, we have also looked into the status of the leisure craft from the viewpoint of sectoral sanctions as well as taxation. Our further investigations revealed that four of the detained vessels had not been placed under a customs procedure as required by the regulations. We performed separate tax audits on these vessels, and based on the results, we reported one vessel to the Tax Administration for consideration of taxes, and one vessel, as mentioned, to the enforcement authorities for possible freezing measures,” says Rakshit.
The sectoral sanctions imposed by the EU against Russia are very extensive when it comes to leisure craft, since as a rule, all watercraft, and marine technology in general, are subject to the sanctions and cannot be exported to Russia. Customs has cooperated closely with the customs and other authorities in different countries, both in terms of information exchange and controls.
“We have also detained pleasure craft due to illegal attempts to take them out of Finland. Under the sanctions, it has also not been possible to allow vessels registered in Russia to sail. Two of the cases of suspected violation of the export ban have been referred for preliminary survey and criminal investigation and they are being investigated as aggravated regulation offences,” Rakshit notes.
The EU has imposed extensive sanctions against Russia and Belarus due to Russia’s attack on Ukraine. As the implementing authority, Customs is responsible for the monitoring of export and import sanctions agreed at EU level. Moreover, Customs assists in the identification and localisation of property of individuals and entities on the EU sanctions lists. This includes the detention of leisure craft, among other things.