Record number of narcotic tablets and Swedish snus seized by Finnish Customs in 2018 ‒ high level of tax fraud cases also uncovered
In 2018, Customs uncovered nearly 9 000 customs offences and seized over 1 000 kilos of narcotics. Customs also seized a record number of doping substances, snus and ecstasy tablets. The societal impact of Customs’ crime prevention in 2018 amounted to nearly 39 million euros and the impact of economic crime prevention was close to 18 million euros.
Finnish Customs seized a record number of 188 000 ecstasy tablets in 2018. The quantity was nearly ten times higher than the previous year (in 2017: 19 034). The seizing of the record number of ecstasy tablets is explained by two separate large seizures. Ecstasy has occurred in many narcotics seizures by Customs during the last five years.
In 2018, Finnish Customs registered a total of 2 753 narcotics offences, 281 of which were aggravated offences. The share of foreign nationals suspected in the cases of aggravated narcotics offences was around 42 per cent, which is around 8 percentage points less than the previous year.
Customs’ crime prevention has a significant societal impact
The societal impact of customs crime prevention amounted to around 39 million euros in 2018. The largest part of the societal impact consisted of proceeds of crime*, which Customs recovered in the amount of 26.1 million euros. As for the indicators of the impact of economic crime prevention, the amount of losses due to the investigated cases amounted to 18.15 million euros.
*Proceeds of crime, means financial benefits acquired by criminal activity. The proceeds can be cash, cars, buildings or other possessions that have monetary value. Proceeds of crime are abandoned to the State.
Tax fraud cases ‒ highest number in five years
The number of tax fraud cases investigated by Customs have increased during the last few years and in 2018 they were the highest in five years. Customs investigated 1 294 tax fraud cases in 2018. The corresponding number of cases the year before was 1 086. There were 166 cases of aggravated tax fraud, which also was the highest number in five years. The cases of aggravated tax fraud were mainly cases of illegal imports of cigarettes, alcohol and snus.
In addition, Customs has investigated cases of aggravated tax fraud in international goods trade. These cases have included, among other things, false declarations regarding customs value, misuse of a customs procedure and groundless applications for the return of value added tax in Union trade. The growing number of fraud cases regarding value added tax in Union trade is combatted by Customs, together with the Tax Administration and foreign law enforcement authorities.
The internet is used increasingly for marketing and selling products, which are illicit or subject to restrictions as well as highly taxed, to consumers; subsequently trying to avoid the taxes and other regulations regarding the products.
Increase in snus seizures and detention of alcohol
Snus seizures by Customs were at an all-time high in 2018. Customs seized a total quantity of 6 744 kilos of snus, which is almost double the record quantity of 2016 (in 2016: 3 442, in 2017: 2 390 kilos). Snus is sold in Finland on different sites on the internet, ordered as cash on delivery and sold in connection with other business.
Customs detained 2.7 million cigarettes in connection with criminal cases in 2018. The quantity was 300 000 cigarettes less than in 2017. The decrease in the number of cigarettes detained in criminal offence cases is explained by the fact that no great cases of cigarette smuggling were detected in 2018.
In 2018, Customs uncovered a total of 365 alcohol offences, which is almost the same number as the previous year (in 2017: 343). Customs detained some 11 543 litres of passenger imported alcohol and 274 litres in freight traffic. Customs placed a total quantity of 37 260 litres of passenger imported alcohol under tax consideration.
Import of several different narcotic substances grew
In 2018, Finnish Customs seized a total of 1 060 kilos of narcotic substances, which was more than 2 000 kilos less than in 2017. The drop in the total amount of narcotics is explained mainly by the drop in khat and hashish seizures.
During 2018, Customs seized around 188 000 tablets of ecstasy; the largest number in history. A record quantity of marijuana was also seized, 200 kilos, which is the largest quantity seized in 13 years.
A quantity of around 46 kilos of methamphetamine and amphetamine was seized in 2018, i.e., around 12 kilos less than the previous year. According to the statistics on seizures and based on other information received by Customs, the occurrence of methamphetamine seems to have decreased on the Finnish market during 2018.
The quantity of new psychoactive substances has remained at a high level also in Finland
New psychoactive substances (NPS) are detected regularly as older ones disappear from the market. In 2018, the Customs Laboratory examined around 90 new psychoactive substances. Of these, 10 were of a kind never before encountered by the Customs Laboratory.
Synthetic opioids have become a large problem around the rest of Europe and in North America. The phenomenon is also visible in Finland, and during 2018 Customs seized several postal consignments containing furanylfentanyl.
In 2018, Customs seized 78 200 tablets of narcotic medicines, which was less than the record quantity of the previous year (in 2017: 170 052).
More doping substances seized than before
The quantity of doping substances seized by Customs increased nearly fivefold compared to 2017, even though the total of doping offences remained nearly the same. Around 587 500 tablets/ampoules of doping substances were seized in 2018 (in 2017: 121 301). A significant change in the smuggling of doping substances is the increased size of the lots. For example, one smuggled lot can contain one thousand ampoules or several kilos of testosterone.