Conman sets up fake Russia border with Finland to trick migrants

Nataliya Vasilyeva
The man set up a bogus version of the real Finnish Russian border post, pictured here, to convince the migrants to pay him more than 10,000 euros to smuggle them to Europe - Lehtikuva

Border guards in Russia’s north west last week arrested a man who had set up a bogus border outpost with Finland and taken thousands of euros from migrants for what they thought was a journey through the woods to the European Union.

The man, who was only identified as a citizen of one of the former Soviet Union republics, put up border posts in the forest outside St Petersburg and charged four men from South Asia more than 10,000 euros (£8,400) for his services for smuggling them into neighbouring Finland, Russia’s Border Guard Service said on Wednesday.

Russia’s 1,340-kilometer border with Finland mostly runs across sparsely populated areas in the forest, offering a relatively easy way for migrants to get into the European Union.

The Russian Border Guard Service said that the conman took the migrants on a trip out of town and led them to the bogus Russian-Finnish border where he left them.The conman apparently took the trouble to fake the migrant journey so meticulously that he even carried a dingy with him.

The Komsomolskya Pravda daily said that the four men were from Sri Lanka and that they were detained when they reached a real Russian border guard outpost.

A video released by authorities showed four men with their hands up standing in a dark forest.

“The incredible adventures of the foreigners in the stillness of the night ended with a ruling of the Vyborg district court,” the Border Guards said in a statement. The men were fined and deported out of Russia. Authorities did not specify their nationalities.

The unidentified smuggler now faces charges of fraud.

The Russian border with Finland became a popular destination for asylum seekers at the end of the 2015 migrant crisis in Europe.

In 2016, Russia and Finland even briefly restricted access at two crossings only to the citizens of Finland, Russia, and Belarus, plus their family members, following a hike in the number of asylum seekers. Russians living in the border areas were at that time offering the migrants help to get to the border crossing with Finland.