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ST. PETERSBURG, August 19. /TASS/. The Cologne Prosecutor’s Office is investigating a case, in which large foreign companies are suspected of giving bribes of at least €1 million for customs clearance at the St. Petersburg port, Germany’s Consulate General in Petersburg told TASS on Wednesday.
Germany’s Consulate General thus confirmed the information that had earlier been reported by the German media.
"The Cologne Prosecutor’s Office is reporting through its press office that the investigation is continuing. The investigation is complex and it is a long way before a judicial process starts and at present there can be no talk about that," the consulate said, adding the probe had been proceeding since 2013.
When asked about whether the Cologne Prosecutor’s Office had applied to Russian law-enforcement agencies for assistance as part of an international request, the German consulate said "there is no information on cooperation."
According to the German media, US auto giant Ford and Schenker, a subsidiary of Germany’s Rail Group Bahn, are suspected of giving bribes over a period of several years.
Spiegel magazine reported that funds in the amount of 1 million euros were transferred annually for the quickest customs clearance of auto parts supplied through the St. Petersburg port to Ford’s local plant in the town of Vsevolozhsk in the Leningrad Region in northwest Russia.
According to the media, German prosecutors have already questioned eight Schenker employees suspected of complicity in the shipment of auto parts, two Ford employees and one employee of a Russian company, which, as they say, acted as an intermediary in the scheme.
The St. Petersburg sea port is Russia’s largest port. The cargoes passing through the St. Petersburg sea port have been cleared by the Baltic customs house since 1992. The Baltic customs house accounts for over 63% of all revenues channeled by the North-Western Customs Department to the regional budget.
The Baltic customs house incudes about 1,200 customs officers working at eight customs posts.
Foreign trade within the area of the Baltic customs house’s operation amounted to $11 billion in January-May 2015. Baltic customs officers issued over 113,000 customs declarations for goods and cleared over 4,000 foreign shipping vessels. The Baltic customs house transferred over 126 billion rubles ($1.9 billion) in customs duties to the regional budget over that period.