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Societal and economic impact of customs crime prevention at a high level

17.3.2017 12.00
Press release

In 2016, the impact of customs crime prevention on society amounted to 225 million euros. The impact of customs crime prevention in 2015 amounted to 15.94 million euros. The increase in the impact is mostly due to the increase in the value of unseized goods.

Of this amount, the share of evaded taxes was about eight million euros (3.45 million euros in 2015). Recovered proceeds of crime amounted to 19.3 million euros, whereas in 2015 the amount was 10.7 million euros.

The impact of economic crime prevention continued to increase in 2016. The 2016 impact amount is 25.77 million euros compared to 11.5 million euros in 2015.

Almost 3 500 kg of snus seized

Customs uncovered a record-high number of cases involving the smuggling and re-sale of snus in 2016. The quantity of snus seized by Customs, 3 442 kg, was almost threefold compared to the 2015 quantity.

Snus is sold in Finland through online stores, cash on delivery, and in connection with business activity. The import and re-sale of snus has involved offences investigated as, for example, aggravated tax frauds and smuggling.

According to the Finnish Tobacco Act that entered into force in August 2016, a private individual can import at most 1 000 grams (1 kg) of snus for personal use. The sale of snus is prohibited in Finland.

A high number of offences detected by Customs - increase in the number of narcotics offences

In 2016, Finnish Customs registered altogether 9 581 offences (9 656 offences in 2015). Finnish Customs uncovered altogether 3 187 narcotics offences (2 312 offences in 2015). There was also an increase in the number of aggravated narcotics offences. Customs investigated 254 such offences in 2016 (199 offences in 2015). 

The quantity of seized narcotics was, however, the lowest in five years. In 2015, Customs seized altogether 1 277 kg of narcotics, which is over 200 kg more than in 2016.

The quantity of seized khat dropped by almost exactly 200 kg compared to the 2015 quantity, a factor which explains the decrease in the total quantity. The decrease in seizures of khat can be partly attributed to the increased use of dried khat, and the classification of khat as a narcotic substance in the United Kingdom in 2014.

Customs authorities seized a total of 56 kilogrammes of amphetamine in 2016 (135 kg in 2015).

Recreational drug use is on the increase, as the quantity of seized cocaine was the highest in 13 years, that is, about 8.6 kg, which is just under three kilograms more than in 2015. Customs also seized the highest quantity of ecstasy in 13 years; 107 000 tablets.

Highest number of tax frauds in five years

Customs investigated 914 tax frauds in 2016 compared to 856 tax frauds in 2015. There were 109 aggravated tax frauds in 2016 (69 cases in 2015). The cases of aggravated tax fraud classified as economic offences and investigated by Customs were mainly cases of illegal import of snus, cigarettes and alcohol. Cases classified as economic offences involved taxation on cars and waste, as well as excise duties, VAT and customs warehousing. By the end of December 2016, the duration of investigation into aggravated narcotics offences was 403 days (269 days in 2015).

Customs faces challenges in the prevention of economic crime in the form of new phenomena such as cross-border offences involving electronic trade and internal trade traffic.

The Internet is used to an increasing extent in marketing and selling highly taxable products to consumers while evading the tax regulations concerning the products.

Customs prevents frauds related to the value added taxation of Community trade in cooperation with the Tax Administration and foreign law enforcement authorities. Criminal activity involving the logistics branch and occurring in connection with export and transit procedures continued in 2016. The cases under investigation by Customs have involved for example goods which were not duly cleared for export, as well as incorrect goods descriptions and commodity codes, among others.

Weapons and parts of weapons ordered on the Internet

In 2016, Customs investigated the highest number of firearms offences in the five-year period, 163 offences. Most of the cases were petty firearms offences. Customs seized 218 weapons, most of which were gas weapons.

A current phenomenon in Finland and other countries involves orders of weapons and parts of weapons through the Internet. Customs has sought to solve this problem through domestic enforcement projects and international operations between authorities.

Direct and indirect effects through shadow economy prevention

Customs will continue its efficient actions against the shadow economy in cooperation with other authorities. In line with its strategy for the years 2016–2020, Finnish Customs will combat the shadow economy efficiently, and protect society by ensuring product safety and preventing serious cross-border crime.

A national strategy for the years 2016–2020 has been drawn up regarding the shadow economy and economic crime prevention, in addition to an action plan. Customs has planned a shadow economy prevention programme that includes 23 projects to be carried out during 2016–2020.

In 2016, the societal impact of economic crime prevention by Customs amounted to a total of 25.7 million euros. Recovered proceeds of economic crime amounted to 5.97 million euros. The results achieved over the years 2012–2016 show that the economic crime prevention efforts by Customs have been efficient and well-aimed.

The corporate audit operations undertaken by Customs have produced similar results compared to 2015 from the viewpoint of shadow economy prevention. Customs carried out 442 corporate audits and document controls. Altogether 397 audits and controls were completed in 2015. The proposed subsequent taxation resulting from corporate audits and document controls amounted to 60.7 million euros compared to 63 million euros in 2015. There were 25 audits and controls which were assessed as involving the shadow economy already at the planning stage, and which were based on criminal offences or which resulted in an investigation.

For further information, please call the Customs Media Service on +358 295 527 150

Press Release