AutosLuxury cars are making their way to Russia despite sanctions

Luxury cars are making their way to Russia despite sanctions

Luxury cars are making their way to Russia despite sanctions
Images source: © Press materials

8:07 AM EST, December 12, 2023

An estimated one thousand luxury cars manufactured in the European Union have found their way into Russia following its aggression towards Ukraine. These opulent vehicles, ordered by rich individuals, were smuggled through two countries.

When Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the European Union and the United States imposed sanctions which included limits on exporting luxury goods to Russia, such as cars. However, due to the substantial buying power of potential buyers and inaccurate application of restrictions, loopholes have been exploited. Reports indicate that Belarus and Finland were the primary transit channels.

Belarus, which was not included in the sanctions against Russia, served as a gateway for the banned cars to be transported to Russia. Over a thousand cars from countries including Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Austria, Ireland, and Belgium reportedly entered Russia this way. About 30 companies were implicated in the import process, some allegedly tied to Alexander Lukashenko.

The cars that infiltrated Russia included models from luxury manufacturers such as Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Lamborghini, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Volvo. The most expensive declared cars were a Rolls-Royce Cullinan worth $630,000, a Ferrari SF90 Stradale priced at $530,000, and a Lamborghini Urus costing $430,000.

The second notable transit channel was—or at least used to be—Finland. Luxury vehicles were transported by sea from German ports and then smuggled, often through the Finnish port of Kotka. Despite their efforts, Finnish services occasionally failed to detect the ruse due to forged documents used in the importation process.

"Finnish authorities struggle to enforce regulations on companies that illegally export goods to Russia. The chain of companies involved in this operation can span quite a distance, but transportation companies play crucial roles in enabling the smuggling. Several Russian capital-backed transport companies registered in Finland operate from Finnish ports to the Vaalimaa border station," stated Finnish broadcaster Yle, as quoted by PAP in early December.

Finnish claims are not baseless; they affixed GPS transmitters to luxury cars crossing the Russian border, tracking their journey. Two such vehicles—a BMW X3 and a Lexus RX350—traveled first to St. Petersburg, then to Moscow, and finally to Tomsk. The Lexus concluded its journey in a showroom, while the BMW found a new owner.

While other countries like Kazakhstan and Armenia are also used for smuggling cars into Russia, lavish, luxury vehicles are generally not part of these routes. With many common Western cars replaced by Chinese models, wealthy Russians are unwilling to accept such changes and resort to establishing transit channels, defying Western restrictions.

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