Court hands shock imprisonment to customs official for bribe-taking

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Customs official. Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

A customs official who accepted bribes from a customs agent for prompt clearance was handed a prison sentence on Friday by Pärnu County Court.

The 45-year-old official who misused his official position was given a four-year jail sentence, of which he must immediately serve two months. The rest of the jail sentence is conditional with a four-year probation term.

The bribe-giver, a 46-year-old man active in customs brokerage, was given a sentence of three years in jail. Just like the official, he must immediately serve two months in prison and the rest of the prison term is conditional with a three-year probation term.

Both men were arrested as suspects in February and were subsequently remanded in custody. Since the time spent by them in pretrial detention is counted as part of the jail term served, both have served most of their two-month non-suspended terms by now.  

According to the charges, the 45-year-old customs official asked for a bribe in return for a possibility to avoid loss of time related to customs procedures. 

"To put it simply, we can say that the official enabled one customs agent to buy their clients out of customs control and related loss of time. As we know, time is a valuable asset in the world of business and such illegal activity provided the agent who gave the bribe with a significant competitive advantage," Kaido Tuulemäe, specialized prosecutor at the West District Prosecutor's Office, said.

"The prosecutor said that the actions of the customs official posed a threat as due to the bribe, the official did not check consignments and thereby opened the path for a wide variety of violations. 

The investigation revealed over 30 transactions between the two accused during a period of four years.

"We identified over €7,000 or criminal income, which the court ordered the recipient to pay into the state coffers," the prosecutor said.

Veiko Germann, director of the department of the Internal Security Service (ISS)  for West Estonia, described combating corruption in customs as important also in curbing security risks.

"Effective controls at customs must have a preventive deterrent effect on the persons and groups who have evil intentions," he said.

Germann said that in the case in question, goods moved from Russia to Estonia and from here onwards to several EU member states.

The investigation was conducted by the ISS and supervised by the West District Prosecutor's Office.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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