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Closer watch on alcohol imports

Over the past four months, Finnish customs officers have questioned over 3000 passengers and scrutinized imports of 37,000 litres of drink brought in from Estonia. The crucial question is whether the alcohol is intended for personal use or not. Almost all travelers seem to have taken the rules to heart.

Nainen Länsisatamassa lavallisen alkoholijuomia kanssa.
Image: Yle

Under regulations that came into force this past summer, travelers are permitted to bring hefty amounts of alcohol into the country (see box) provided that the drinks are intended for personal use.

It is the term "personal use" that still seems to cause some confusion. In principle, it means that the alcoholic beverages brought into the country will be consumed by the traveler and/or by members of the traveler’s immediate family.

Customs officials are quick to point to a few examples of what is not personal use: importing drinks to be served at one's cousin's wedding, drink to be given to a neighbour for help with a building project, or buying drink abroad to give to friends.

Only one criminal investigation

Between the start of July and the end of October more than 3,000 passengers were pulled aside by customs officers for checks on the loads of alcohol they were bringing into the country. In only 22 cases were import duties directly imposed. Another 75 were or are still being reviewed for possible tax assessments. One violation resulted in criminal charges and fines and duties totaling 13,000 euros.

"In the main, travelers are aware of the rules of what is considered personal use, but some blatant cases of commercial imports have also been discovered," says Mikko Grönberg of Finnish Customs.

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