Finnish court dismisses online spirit sales charges

whiskey-smallAll charges have been dismissed in the case of a Finnish website that had been accused of improper distribution and importation of alcoholic products from Germany for sale in Finland. The online web sales operation was declared innocent after the Helsinki District Court ruled that it could find no evidence to suggest the site operators had breached any legislation governing the sale of spirits.

The two owner-operators of the website had faced charges of professional distribution of spirits via the internet in conjunction with the delivery of hundreds of thousands of bottles of alcohol across Finland during 2007 and 2008.

Such a move was claimed to be in violation of the stringent alcohol laws that exist in Finland, which sees primary operator Alko hold a monopoly over the heavily taxed national liquor sales.

According to Finnish law, it is illegal for anyone to purchase alcohol online unless they themselves go abroad to collect it. This stipulation has earlier led to one person being charged, in this case, for delivering spirits to a customer.

The case, which has been dragging on for years, had seen the state prosecution request compensation of EUR 500,000 be paid in addition to serving suspended prison sentences on the accused.

The website is available in English, Swedish and Finnish and was established in 2002. According to the defence, the online group has 40,000 registered customers, with 18,000 of them living within Finland. The not-guilty verdict is thought to be a landmark decision for online alcohol retailers, who could soon be provided with more relaxed governance of the sale of their product. This in turn is expected to have a significant impact on Finnish tax revenues.

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