Switzerland – publishing the 10 fines for breaching sanctions imposed by SECO: Part 4 – cases 9-10

This is the fourth and final instalment of making public the final administrative criminal decisions imposed by SECO in relation to breaches of the Swiss sanctions against Belarus and Russia.

9. Final administrative criminal decision dated 20 November 2023

Original: 2023-11-20 – I.65 – Strafbescheid

Translation: 2023-11-20 – I.65 – Strafbescheid_Translated to English

The company in question imported a dismantled wooden sauna, and accompanying parts, from a Belarusian company via Kyrgyzstan valued at €3,000. Geneva Rive-Droite customs stopped the importation.

An investigation was commenced on the basis that the products met the criteria for wood products (customs code 4418.9900) rather than the customs code used by the importer which related to prefabricated building structures (customs code 9406).

SECO obtained a ruling from the Federal Customs Office that the goods did indeed fall under the code for wooden products with the other parts being irrelevant as they had no impact on price, and that the customs code for prefabricated buildings was not relevant to a sauna which was to be installed internally rather than as a stand alone structure.

SECO took the view that the breach was negligent and resulted from a breach of the duty to conduct “additional checks on the classification of products prior to the conclusion of a purchase contract with a company based in Belarus” rather than deliberate and given the low value of the goods imposed a fine of CHF 1,000 plus CHF 580 in costs.

Comment: The use of the prohibition against importing “wood products” from Belarus to cover finished items made from wood is noteworthy.

10. Final administrative criminal decision dated 15 January 2024

Original: 2024-01-15 – I.73 – Strafbescheid

Translation: 2024-01-15 – I.73 – Strafbescheid_Translated to English

The company in this case sought to export polyethylene products some of which were prohibited (customs code 3920.10) and some of which were not (*customs code 3916.10) from export to Russia. The value of the prohibited goods was €5,373.

The shipment was stopped by customs at Zürich airport. An investigation was started and the company admitted the facts stating that it had “not even considered that the delivery of polyethylene sheets could fall under the Ukraine Regulation“.

SECO accepted that the breach was negligent and not intentional, and in light of the early cooperation, the low value of the breach, and the provisions of Swiss law permitting the corporation to pay a fine of CHF 5,000 or less rather than investigators seeking to identify culpable individuals, the fine imposed was CHF 2,500 plus costs of CHF 1,260.

Comment: In this case the company gave the name of “the person responsible for the alleged facts”. SECO, however, took the view that this admission was insufficiently detailed to be relied upon for the purpose of imposing personal criminal liability and a fine on that individual.

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