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Finland's embassy in Stockholm accused of running tax-free tobacco scamtchy title...

Finland's embassy in Stockholm accused of running tax-free tobacco scamtchy title...

By James Rothwell 

Staff at the Finnish embassy in Sweden have been accused of bootlegging thousands of pounds worth of tax-free alcohol and tobacco.

The workers, who have not been identified, allegedly sold on hundreds of litres of wine and thousands of cigarettes which were bought in by the embassy in Stockholm for entertaining guests. 

Under international law, anyone with diplomatic immunity can buy tobacco and alcohol without paying tax - but selling them on is forbidden. 

The Swedish government is believed to have lost up to 20,000 euros (£17,000) in tax due to the suspected boot-legging, according to Swedish newspaper Wasabladet.  

Ari Rouhe, a senior official at the Finnish foreign affairs ministry, told the Telegraph it was investigating. 

"We knew before that something was going on and we immediately put a stop to it, but this report suggests that the amount of goods [being sold] was much larger than we thought," he said.

"We will address the issue of tax with Sweden when the investigation is completed - the figure that is mentioned in media reports is total speculation."

Finland's embassy in Stockholm is understood to employ around 30 people, of which a quarter enjoy diplomatic status.

An employee who answered the phone on Tuesday said they could not comment on the affair as it happened more than two years ago.

Jarno Viinanen, the former Finland ambassador to Sweden, told Wasbladet he first became aware of irregularities in the embassy's spending in 2014. 

He said he put an end to the practice at the time and that tobacco and alcohol purchases had fallen dramatically by 2015.

The unusually large number of orders for alcohol and cigarettes did not immediately raises his suspicions as "the embassy arranges over a hundred events a year," he said. 

Mr Viinanen was unavailable for comment when approached by the Telegraph. 

A Swedish news agency raised the alarm about embassy workers' conduct last August but did not provide details about the scale of the operation. 

It is not the first time diplomatic staff appear to have been tempted by the lucrative trade of tax-free tobacco.

In November 2014, a senior diplomat at the Gambian embassy in London was jailed for overseeing a multi-million pound duty free cigarette scam.

Yusupha Bojang, 54, was said to have turned the embassy in Kensington "into a tobacconist," with eyewitnesses claiming to have seen customers lining up outside the front door.

He and his colleagues sold on more than 29 million tonnes of tax-free tobacco pouches, depriving the UK Treasury of an estimated £4.6million. 

Bojang was found guilty of "systematic fraud" and jailed for six years. 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/11/finnish-embassy-staff-accused-of-running-tax-free-tobacco-scam/


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