Wednesday May 22, 2024

Cigarette smuggling on rise

Several people held for smuggling cigarettes from Estonia to Finland

Published : 16 May 2024, 02:55

  DF Report
File Photo: Finnish Customs.

Finnish Customs investigated a case of large-scale cigarette smuggling in the Helsinki region during spring 2024, said Customs in a press release on Wednesday.

A large quantity of cigarettes has been seized during the investigation and several individuals have been detained during the preliminary investigation.

The investigation started in January 2024, when two persons picked up cardboard boxes from Estonia at the terminal of a transport company in Vantaa. Customs stopped the individuals who were travelling in a van, and found 500 000 illegal cigarettes in the cardboard boxes.

It is suspected that the smuggling started at the end of last year, and that there have been several instances of smuggling.

The total quantity of illegally imported cigarettes is suspected to be around 3 000 000, which means more than a million euros in evaded taxes.

Commercial road traffic was used as smuggling method. Neither the transport company nor its staff are suspected of any crimes.

“In this case, we suspect that the smuggling of the cigarettes was conducted from abroad and that several people participated in the activities in Finland, for example by receiving, storing and selling cigarettes. Several people have been detained during the investigation,” said Pasi Lukkarinen, the Chief Investigator.

Finnish Customs has cooperated closely with the Estonian authorities in investigating this cigarette smuggling case.

The criminal case has been investigated as several aggravated tax frauds and an aggravated money laundering offence has been investigated in the same context.

The case will be forwarded this summer to the Prosecution District of Southern Finland for consideration of charges.

Commercial freight traffic has been increasingly used for smuggling, both in terms of the quantities of cigarettes smuggled and in terms of import volumes.

In the first quarter of this year, Customs has seized a record quantity of cigarettes compared to the corresponding period of the last three years.

“In the criminal investigation carried out by Customs, we have found that the activities of certain criminals have been very regular and long-term. Our investigation has revealed extensive and multiple cases of smuggling also involving foreign operators. It appears that cigarette smuggling is not on the decline,” said Hannu Sinkkonen, Director of Enforcement.

In 2023, 2.75 million cigarettes were seized in Finnish Customs' criminal cases, which is more than double the figure of 1.19 million in 2022.