A stop sign at the border zone between Finland and Russia in Pelkola, Imatra, in November 2021. YLE reveals that Finnish Customs has analysed roughly 20,000 shipments of goods at the border since Russian began its war in Ukraine in February 2022. (Lauri Heino – Str / Lehtikuva)

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COURTS in Finland have handed down the first sentences for violations of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union, reports YLE.

Kymenlaakso District Court in October handed down suspended prison sentences in two separate cases where cash or goods falling within the sanctions regime were being transported from Finland to Russia.

A Russian man was handed a three-month suspended prison sentence for regulation offence after he was stopped attempting to cross the border with 800 euros in cash, a roughly 800-euro smartwatch and two golf clubs worth around 1,000 euros.

The subsequent investigation revealed that he had used his and his son’s cash cards to withdraw 78,000 euros and made purchases worth 50,000 euros in Finland. He is believed to have made altogether seven trips across the border, transporting a high number of sonars and 28,000 euros in cash to Russia.

Also the golf clubs and smartwatch were ruled to be luxury products and, thereby, fall within the sanctions regime of the EU.

A Belarusian man, in turn, was issued a suspended prison term of four months for attempting to cross the border in possession of air-cooled condensers worth a minimum of 22,000 euros, according to the court. The man alleged in court that he is a professional driver transporting the condensers to Russia and Kazakhstan.

Both men have appealed against their sentences.

Officers at Finnish Customs have analysed around 20,000 shipments of goods at the border between Finland and Russia since the start of Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine on 24 February 2022, according to YLE. The officers have carried out 1,200 inspections and opened a pre-trial investigation in 180 cases over suspected sanctions violations.

Sami Rakshit, the director of enforcement at Finnish Customs, stated to the public broadcasting company that the value of the detained goods is at least tens of millions of euros.

“There are hundreds of cases where we’ve detained goods that are believed to come within the scope of sanctions,” he told. “There have been these notorious recreational crafts, luxury goods and information technology like routers, computers, underwater research equipment and phones.”

Most of the detained goods are returned to their owners, as handing them over to the state requires that a forfeiture order is issued during trial proceedings. Rakshit said the owner can return the goods to the place of purchase or transport them to another country, but not to Russia.

“We’ve prevented that, and that has been the goal of these sanctions,” he said.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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