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Customs Service discovers 3,000 cases of alleged illegal imports labeled as 'aid' for military

by The Kyiv Independent news desk October 22, 2023 1:28 AM 2 min read
The 108th Brigade of Ukraine's Armed Forces train in Zaporizhzhia Oblast on Oct. 18, 2023. (Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu via Getty Images)
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Editor's note: The previous version of this news item incorrectly alleged that Ukraine's Customs Service reported that "aid didn't reach the military." It was later corrected to indicate that the Customs Service's report implied that "aid" was a label fraudulently used by some importers to skip customs fees.

Ukraine's State Customs Service reported discovering 3,000 cases of alleged customs violations connected with humanitarian and military aid.

The agency reported checking 9,000 instances of importing goods that were labeled as "humanitarian aid" during the first nine months of 2023, where the individuals or organizations importing it declared that it is meant for specific military units. Such goods are free of customs fees.

In some 3,000 of such cases, the Customs Service said, the designated military units couldn't confirm that they had received the said goods – meaning that the goods were likely mislabelled to avoid customs fees.

The report doesn't imply that the aid in question was coming from any foreign government, nor that any actual aid was stolen. It doesn't clarify whether the importers alleged of mislabelling the goods were Ukrainian or foreign.

The checks were conducted by Ukraine's Customs Service's Anti-Smuggling and Customs Rules Violations Department together with the Defense Ministry.

On March 1, 2022, days after Russia launched a full-scale war against Ukraine and humanitarian aid poured into the country, the government issued a decree allowing the import of certain goods tax-free.

In December 2022, the list of goods that can be imported as humanitarian aid tax-free was amended.

In Ukraine, the "humanitarian aid" label used at customs includes the goods meant for the army, such as protective equipment or cars.

According to the State Customs Service, some importers allegedly used these provisions for tax evasion purposes. After the checks, the customs authorities submitted 387 reports of potential illegal activities to the law enforcement.  

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