Finnish Customs has wrapped up investigations into yachts that were seized due to suspected Russian sanction violations.
Eight vessels taken for further investigation were transferred to the National Enforcement Authority, four were subject to tax inspection and cases surrounding two of the boats were transferred to criminal investigation, Customs said.
"The links between several ownership chains showed that tax havens and other very complex arrangements were at the root. This made it difficult and in many cases slowed down the identification of potentially sanctionable entities, and in some cases even made it impossible," Sami Rakshit, Director of Customs' Enforcement Department, said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
Since mid-March, Customs and the Finnish National Enforcement Authority have been investigating the ownership of foreign-registered pleasure boats kept in Finland. Customs detained a total of 21 vessels in March to investigate whether they were subject to sanctions against Russia, and six more in the summer.
The aim has been to find out whether the owners of the vessels are on the sanctions list — and whether the yachts are subject to sanctions.
Customs reported one vessel to the National Enforcement Authority as early as March. At the time, the Kotka Yacht Store was told that the Fotinia vessel, stored in its warehouse, had been placed under temporary seizure by the authority, but the boat was released in May. The yacht is suspected to be linked to former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
The EU's sanctions against Russia mainly cover recreational vessels owned by Russian entities rather than private individuals.
"In the case of seven of the yachts, our further investigations revealed that they may be the work of entities on EU sanctions lists. In addition to these, we also reported one vessel to the enforcement authority following a tax audit," Rakshit noted.
Customs also discovered that the four pleasurecraft had not been placed under the customs procedure, as required.
Customs is the executive authority responsible for the control of export and import sanctions agreed at EU level. Yachts have also been seized for suspected illegal export attempts to Russia. These cases are currently are the focus of police investigations.
"From a sanctions perspective, Russian-registered vessels have also been prevented from entering the water. Two of the suspected cases of export ban violations have progressed to preliminary investigation and are being investigated as aggravated rationing offences," said Rakshit.