Customs uncovered more than 5 400 customs offences last year. The smuggling of snus has become more professional than ever and Customs also seized a record quantity of snus. There was also a clear growth in the number of seizures of medicines and narcotic medicines. The societal impact of Customs’ crime prevention increased to more than 70 million euros last year.
In 2021, the number of customs offences was at its lowest in eight years. This is mainly due to the COVID-19 situation, which caused a drop in passenger travel, but an underlying broader change can also be discerned.
– The societal impact of Customs’ crime prevention increased last year, even though the total number of customs offences decreased. There are always annual variations concerning the impact, but the trend is that the customs offences are changing, and the activities are becoming more organised and professional than ever, says Hannu Sinkkonen, Director of Enforcement.
– The growing complexity of criminal investigations requires more resources than before to enable technical and online investigations. This also means that the competence profile of criminal investigators is changing. Finnish Customs should also be a part of this development. Professional customs offenders take advantage of the lawful structures of international trade and our close international cooperation between authorities has an important role in uncovering these offences, Sinkkonen continues.
The largest quantity of snus ever seized on an annual basis
Customs seized 9 104 kg of snus in 2021, which is roughly 2 000 kg more than the year before, and the largest quantity ever. The largest snus consignments were smuggled to the Finnish market mainly across the land border from northern Sweden, but seizures were also made in the ship traffic. The selling and smuggling of snus has changed and is now done mainly by professional criminals in Finland.
Customs detained less cigarettes than in years, totalling 660 000 pieces. Cigarettes are mainly smuggled to Finland in smaller quantities; especially from Russia, and the COVID-19 travel restrictions have had an impact on the detained quantities.
The societal impact of customs crime prevention increased
The societal impact of customs crime prevention varies each year. In 2021, the impact was around 70 million euros, when in 2020 it was around 57 million euros. Most of the societal impact, 32.1 million euros, consisted of recovered proceeds of crime.
The most significant part of the impact of economic crime prevention consisted of losses due to the investigated criminal cases, increasing to 13.9 million euros.
Decrease in the number of tax frauds
In 2021, Customs uncovered 568 cases of tax fraud, of which 96 were aggravated. This is less than in 2020, when there were 917 tax frauds and 98 aggravated tax frauds. The cases of aggravated tax fraud classified as economic offences mainly involved illegal imports of cigarettes, alcohol and snus as well as fraud in connection with excise duties, value added tax, anti-dumping duties and customs warehousing. The cases of petty fraud decreased especially due to the decrease in the passenger traffic.
Seizures of medicines and narcotic medicines increasing sharply
Medicinal substances seized almost quadrupled from the previous year to over 1 537 000 pieces. The increase is explained by a few large seizures of nicotine pouches. In turn, the number of medicine offences was lower than the previous year with 931 uncovered medicine offences. More prevalent in the seizures was a nicotine preparation packaged in small pouches, which in Finland is classified as a medicinal substance.
Twice the number of seizures of narcotic medicines were made compared to the previous year, around 433 500 tablets.
The heavy goods traffic and the postal traffic play a significant role in the importation of both medicines and narcotic medicines.
Seizures of cocaine and amphetamine increased
Customs seized 710 kilos of narcotics in 2021, which is almost the same quantity as the year before. The seized quantities showed clearly that the use of marihuana is increasing and, on the other hand, the use of hashish is decreasing. The total quantity of seized marihuana was approximately 260 kilos. Only 3.5 kilos of hashish was seized. In recent years, Finnish Customs has seized 200–300 kilos of marihuana.
The global popularity of cocaine is also reflected in Finland with an increased use of the substance. The quantity of cocaine seized by Customs increased to a record 55 kilos; a quantity that is five times higher than the previous year.
In 2021, the quantity of seized amphetamine increased despite COVID-19 restrictions to 80 kilos, when the quantity in 2020 was around half of this.
The quantity of khat in Customs’ seizures decreased again – around 276 kilos was seized, which is the smallest amount in 12 years.
– The importance of international cooperation, for example within the framework Europol, has become more essential than ever when it comes to the prevention of customs offences. The COVID-19 situation emphasised the importance of preventing online criminal activity; international trends get a foothold in Finland faster than before and the importance of exchanging international data and the analysis of masses of data has grown, summarises Petri Lounatmaa, Director of Enforcement.
Appendix: Customs' crime prevention statistics 2021
Source: Finnish Customs