Finnish Customs has uncovered a significant criminal operation involving the circumvention of European Union sanctions against Russia, involving over three million euros. This case, which is one of the most extensive of its kind, involves two Finnish companies suspected of illegally exporting EU-sanctioned products, including electronics, drones, and defence materiel, to Russia.
The investigation revealed that these companies had been involved in more than thirty instances of exporting or attempting to export sanctioned items, such as microcontrollers and semiconductor devices, with a suspected total value exceeding 600,000 euros, destined for Russia. Additionally, nearly 3,500 drones, valued at over two million euros, were also suspected to have been illegally diverted to Russia. These drones had been officially cleared for export to a different country.
A critical aspect of the case involves the suspected transit of drone-stopping equipment classified as defence materiel. The company allegedly involved failed to acquire the necessary permit for transiting such sensitive items, with the goods, valued at 350,000 euros, also believed to have ended up in Russia.
The operation was seemingly managed from abroad by an individual responsible for both companies. The investigation suggests one company was tasked with purchasing sanctioned products, while the other facilitated their transportation to Russia. This operation was part of a broader international network, with funding sources including Russia.
Hannu Sinkkonen, Director of Enforcement at Finnish Customs, highlighted the international cooperation in the preliminary investigation, involving authorities from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, Europol, and Finland's Security and Intelligence Service.
The case involves six criminal suspects, with one individual detained since September. Charges are expected to be considered in December 2023. This case underscores the challenges in enforcing international sanctions and the complexities involved in preventing their circumvention.