Customs ‘lets the rich import more booze’

Since Sweden changed the law a few years ago, people can come into the country with pretty much however much alcohol they want – if customs believes it is for private use.

Dagens Nyheter reported on Wednesday that customs officials are more likely to believe somebody who has plenty of money than a person with a thinner wallet.

Since 2004, there is no longer a specific limit of how much alcohol you can bring into Sweden, but the head of the public prosecution authority Sven-Erik Alhem said customs essentially profile those bringing in booze.

“Say that I, as a head prosecutor, come in with many litres of whisky of the same brand and very honestly explain that ‘now I have done an estimate of how much more time I have on earth and this is my favorite brand,’” he told Dagens Nyheter.

“‘I have enough money to be able to pay bills, rent and buy food. I am going to store this at home and forget about having to buy anymore whisky in my life.’ Then it is completely clear that this is legal.”

He said customs look differently on others.

“But if you are thinking of coming into the country in the same situation, but are unemployed, without money, have a borrowed car, and have a large amount of whisky with you – then it is pretty hard to believe that you bought it for your own use,” Alhem said.

The type of alcohol can also weigh in on how customs or the courts view a case. Alhem added that beer is view differently by officials because it has a shorter shelf life than hard alcohol.

The rule of thumb for Swedish Customs Service is that if you are coming in from another European Country, you can bring in 10 liters hard alcohol, 90 liters of wine and 110 liters of beer for private use.

Lisbeth Tjärnkvist, a legal expert with the Swedish Customs Service, said it is hard to track court cases on the matter, and said judgments really depend on the mood of the judges.