How Belarus bypasses sanctions with the help of oligarch Varabey’s partners

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Poland

Publishing organisation: Belarusian Investigative Center (BIC), Delfi Estonia, RE: Baltica

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 2022-01-31

Language: Russian, Belarusian, English

Authors: Alexander Yarashevich (BIC), Holger Roonemaa (DELFI), SANITA JEMBERGA (RE:BALTICA), RAIMO POOM (DELFI)


Since its founding in 2019 BIC has revealed over a hundred corruption cases that enrich Belarusian officials and businessmen of the highest rank air the expense of taxpayers. Following our last year materials, EU and UK officials have blocked sanction-busting schemes worth half a billion dollars and have frozen property worth $200 million thus directly hitting the pockets of Lukashenka’s wallets.

Project description:

In 2021 the amount of Belarusian oil products shipped through Estonia multiplied by three times. This was almost impossible to do amidst the European sanctions without manipulations with commodity codes. We discovered the sactions-busting scheme after what it was shut down by authorities.

Impact reached:

Shortly after our investigation Estonia announced that it would introduce additional sanctions on Belarus in the form of suspending the transit of coal-based oil by customs code 2707. https://www.intellinews.com/the-belarus-baltics-trade-war-234335/

Techniques/technologies used:

We have used data from Eurostat after examining which we have found out an “export miracle”. Long before the anti-Belarus sanctions and the oil export ban in particular, the supplies of oil products (commodity code 2707) to the EU began to grow rapidly. The products under the commodity code 2707 are oils, benzol, toluene, xylene, naphthalene, which are not under sanctions.
According to Eurostat, the export of oils coded 2707 from Belarus to the EU tripled to 1,7 mln tonnes, given that the soar happened during late 2020.
When compared to the data in 2019, the amount of supplies increased by more than 4,5 times in 2 years. The “export miracle” amounted to more than a half billion euro. The major flow of export goes to Estonia.
We connected with Estonian authorities after finding this and they were quite surprised.

Context about the project:

Corrupt oligarchs close to Belarusian and Russian authorities even under sanctions’ pressure could keep doing business. They use long-established international partnerships to bypass restrict measures that’s why EU authorities should pay attention to the internal business processes within the Union.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

Even data that looks extremely boring could bear in it an info of significant value.

Project links: