MOSCOW, August 20 (RAPSI) – Russia’s Finance Ministry has developed a bill aimed to empower the customs authorities to carry out investigations of a range of criminal cases related to smuggling of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, documents published on the Federal Portal for Draft Legislation read on Tuesday.

The Ministry notes that at present the overwhelming number of crimes relating to offences envisaged by the legislation on foreign trade is uncovered by the customs authorities exclusively responsible for control over transportation of goods and vehicles across the border of the Eurasian Economic Union and all customs operations in general in the framework of investigations they carry out within their competence, including those related to the smuggling of alcohol beverages and tobacco products. The share of such crimes in the total number of cases uncovered by the customs authorities makes over 30 percent.

Nevertheless, at present the customs are fully empowered to probe only into crimes relating to evasion of customs duties and trafficking in cash and other monetary instruments.

At the same time, according to the Finance Ministry, the customs are well equipped to investigate the crimes related to the smuggling of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products due to their practical experience, especially taking into account the fact that in most cases smuggling is carried out in connection with evasion of customs duties.

The Ministry believes that the amendments to the legislation it has developed will ease the burden on investigative offices of other law enforcement agencies, which in 2014 through 2018 received from the customs authorities over 8,500 criminal cases for investigation and over 12,000 reports of crimes committed.

An explanatory note to the bill specifies that investigative bodies outside the customs authorities shall retain the powers to probe into the aforementioned crimes uncovered by them on their own.