The international sanctions were intended to cripple Russia’s economy. However, the ban seems to remain on paper only. Undercover investigative reporter Janek Kroupa infiltrated one of the smuggling organisations and secretly recorded its boss.
„I have 20 trucks on the way,“ the smuggler confesses. He gets more contraband to Europe through the Black Sea.
The smuggling route is run by a Russian, Ernest Roshal. In addition to his Russian citizenship, he has an Israeli passport that allows him to travel freely around the world and offer Russian products. From Putin's Russia, he exports banned commodities such as lumber, iron and chemical fertilisers. As he confessed during the secretly recorded meeting, the smuggling route also goes the other way around. He says he had brought bulletproof vests and helmets to Russia, for example.
„I spent three months building the infrastructure. We take goods by trucks through Georgia to Turkey, or by ships from Novorossiysk to Istanbul,“ explains Roshal to the reporter who is passing himself off as a trader demanding Russian lumber and iron.
„In Turkey, we change the country of origin. All Russian stamps disappear, we whiten the name of the company. From Turkey, we then transport the goods to Bulgaria, to another of my companies. You will be buying from there. So, the papers will say not from Russia, not from Turkey, but from Bulgaria. My man will do the full customs clearance,“ describes Roshal the whole process. To prove his words, he presents catalogues and price lists of Russian companies. And more than that. He also sends the documentation of a deal he carried out in September. Back then, he delivered Russian wood to Poland.
Russian roubles not allowed in Europe
To make the tracing of banned deals more difficult, he claims he sends the money through his companies in Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. „My company in Kyrgyzstan buys or sells in roubles in Russia. The same day, I can send the money on to Europe via a SEPA payment,“ says Roshal, revealing another part of his trade secret.
When the Seznam Zprávy reporter revealed his true identity at a meeting in Krakow, Roshal momentarily stopped understanding English. Then, suddenly, he started claiming that he had been talking about deals that took place before the bans were introduced.
European countries imposed sanctions on Russia shortly after the start of its aggression in Ukraine. They sought to cripple the Russian economy to make it unable to finance the military campaign in Ukraine. „The package of extensive and targeted sanctions that European leaders have adopted is a demonstration of our unity. They will have a huge impact on the Russian economy and political elites,“ promised, for example, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Until today, however, this has not fully come to pass.
The reason for that is partly because countries like China did not join the ban on exports but also because smuggling routes similar to the one documented by Seznam Zprávy soon developed in Russia.
How exactly does the whole smuggling process work? How did the undercover reporter manage to infiltrate the group and what did the confrontation with the smuggler look like? Watch the introductory video. In the coming days, we will publish a comprehensive report that will look at the covert operation in detail.