Tax office: Laboratory samples have not shown sanctioned products

Railway (photo is illustrative).
Railway (photo is illustrative). Source: ERR

Samples taken from fuels transported through Estonia have not confirmed sanctioned products, the head of the Customs Department of the Tax and Customs Board said on Monday. Therefore, there is no reason to ban transit from Belarus.

Eerik Heldna said the fuels have been thoroughly inspected, the documents are in order and the fuels comply with the commodity code, which is not subject to restrictions.

However, he said it is "very difficult" for customs to know if these fuels are actually intended for various chemical producers or if the rules have been deliberately broken.

"In those cases where there have been reasonable grounds to believe that the code has been tampered with, laboratory samples have also been taken and no violations have been identified in the laboratory samples so far," said Heldna.

An investigation published on Monday by Eesti Päevaleht and Re:Baltica shows Belarusian businessmen are tampering with commodity codes to evade EU sanctions and export record quantities of oil products through Estonia. 

With the help of the state-owned company Operail, more than half a billion euros worth of oil flowed along the Estonian railway last year helping to finance the Belarussian regime.

Operail train at a crossing. Source: Rene Kundla/ERR

Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) has said Estonia must review its sanctions policy. She said the shortcomings and bottlenecks in sanctions are a concern and that the government intends to discuss the situation this week.

"It is definitely important to look at the restrictions again and find additions," the minister said.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu agreed Estonia's sanctions policy towards Belarus must be changed.

Deputy Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee Mihhail Lotman (Isamaa) said the transit issues are not something mysterious and have been known about for months.

"It presents us as hypocrites. [...] We are arguing with the Germans that Nord Stream 2 must not be allowed to go ahead, but we ourselves are letting both Belarusian and Russian goods through Estonia," Lotman said on Monday.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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