Three consignments of valuable artworks bound for Russia were seized by Finnish customs last weekend, suspected of contravening EU sanctions, officials said on Wednesday.
The shipments “include works which cannot be valued, they are priceless,” customs enforcement director Hannu Sinkkonen told a press conference, adding that for insurance purposes the works have been valued at over 42 million euros ($46 million).
Having been on loan from Russian galleries to museums in Italy and Japan, the paintings, statues and antiques were being returned, with head of enforcement Sami Rakshit confirming that some of the artworks were from St Petersburg’s Hermitage gallery.
Ten people are suspected of breaching economic regulation offences, officials said, following the EU’s adoption in mid-March of sanctions prohibiting the sale, supply, transfer or export of luxury goods –- including works of art – to Russia.
Customs officers seized the items at the Vaalimaa border crossing point between Finland and Russia, over the weekend.
They will continue to be held in a warehouse until the situation is clarified or the sanctions are lifted, officials said, adding that the foreign ministry has discussed the seizure with Russia’s ambassador to Finland.
“Professionals have been consulted in the moving and storage of the goods,” Sinkkonen said, adding: “We are not going to open the packages.”
Since the EU imposed widespread sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, Finnish customs officials have also prohibited 21 luxury yachts from leaving Finnish waters while agents investigate whether the boats belong to sanctioned individuals.
One vessel has so far been impounded, authorities told Finnish media.