Scandinavian oil smuggling a thorn in EU's side

  • 2004-01-15
  • Agence France Presse
STOCKHOLM - Organized smuggling across the Finnish border of household heating oil to be used as fuel in Swedish diesel cars costs Sweden millions in lost tax revenues every year, officials said on Jan. 12.

"It is of course difficult to estimate, but some 50 million (5.5 million euros) to 60 million Swedish kronor are probably lost every year in excise alone," Kurt Kankanranta, a customs inspector in the northern town of Haparanda, said.
In addition there are other losses, such as sales tax, he added.
According to estimates, about 10 million liters [2.6 million gallons] of heating oil, which is cheaper than regular car fuel and can be used in vehicles with diesel engines, are trucked illegally across the border between the two European Union states every year.
Typically a liter of heating oil costs 0.45 euro in Finland, while a liter of diesel fuel costs over twice as much, or about 1 euro in Sweden.
But since it is an internal EU border, few of the 10,000 cars and trucks passing the Haparanda checkpoint every day are searched, and the Swedish customs authority has given the smuggling a low priority, Kankanranta noted.
In winter it is also more difficult to curb the illegal activity as the river separating the two countries is frozen and smugglers drive across the ice to avoid the custom checkpoints on the roads, Kankanranta said.
Last year some 160,000 liters of smuggled oil were intercepted by Swedish customs officials, or just 1 percent - 2 percent of what is thought to be the total amount.