Estonian customs officials claim success in halting fuel smugglersAudio version
In late June, the board started asking drivers who re-enter from Russia multiple times a week to state their destinations and declare excess fuel in their tanks. Customs officials informed that the main purpose of the move was to reduce long lines to cross the border and additionally to bring more money into the state treasury.
As of early August, lines had shortened, and in slightly more than a month, over 45,000 euros in excise duty was collected, said Urmas Koidu, head of the customs department. "The people who crossed the border just about every day have practically disappeared from Luhamaa and Koidula checkpoints, leaving only a few who still try to bring in fuel on various pretexts." He added that the number of vehicles making daily crossings is down over 90 percent at Koidula, the northern of the two checkpoints and 100 percent at Luhamaa, which is on the Russian border but closer to Latvia.
Lines are non-existent at Koidula, said Koidu. At Luhamaa, he said, a contingent of Latvians are continuing to try to run the gauntlet, bringing in sugar, cigarettes and fuel. Koidu added that filling stations in Estonia were now enjoying better business.
Mahta Kütus, a fuel seller in Põlva and Võru County, reported that sales were up, though the company's board chairman Ennu Tammemägi said that it was hard to put the increase down to the customs policy. "Yes, in general there is some sort of rise in sales, but it's summer and there are many events so it is hard to say how much has to do with developments on the border."