Lithuanian customs seize tonnes of Belarusian sanctioned cargo and proceed to arrests
The Lithuanian Customs Criminal Service has been conducting an off-the-radar investigation on the possible smuggling of sanctioned fertilisers from Belarus. The authority says that it has seized 3,000 tonnes of urea fertiliser worth 2 million euros during the process. Additionally, after targeted searches in Lithuanian cities, it has arrested two people on suspicions of involvement in sanction circumvention schemes.
The investigation is carried out jointly with the State Security Department and the Financial Crimes Investigation Service. It commenced on 13 January 2023; however, the authorities kept the process undisclosed to avoid undermining it.
The news on the possible smuggling of fertilisers surfaced after investigative journalists exposed a series of sanction circumventions involving the Belarusian fertiliser company Grodno Azot, which has been ‘disguising’ its cargo to import it in Lithuania by rail.
Grodno Azot under the microscope
“According to the investigation, a ‘front’ company registered in the Republic of Belarus, which is not subject to sanctions, may have been used to circumvent international sanctions”, says the Lithuanian Customs Criminal Service, confirming the investigative report. The Lithuanian authority claims that the ‘front’ company was used to smuggle sanctioned fertilisers produced by Grodno Azot.
A couple of days earlier, Lithuanian transport minister Marius Skuodis said that Belarus is deploying endless sanction circumvention schemes and that the Belarusian KGB is directly involved in them. Additionally, he mentioned that Lithuanian companies are also engaged in smuggling, which is now confirmed, considering the two arrests in the country.
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