Late last week, the Supreme Court handed down an interesting ruling. The court found illegal and abolished the UAH 8,500 fine imposed on an owner of a car with EU plates by the State Customs Service.

The case is as follows. In 2016, a Ukrainian national purchased a motor vehicle in Estonia, registering his ownership rights in this country without removing the Lithuanian plates. At the Ukrainian customs, he declared that he was importing a car in a transit mode, that is, that the car would stay in Ukraine for no more than 10 days before crossing out of Ukraine's customs border again. At the same time, in fact, this owner did not plan to drive out of Ukraine – instead, he planned to use it in Ukraine with those EU plates. Subsequently, he was stopped by the police. He contacted the customs authorities, the customs officers established the fact of him exceeding the transit time limit and fined the owner. But the driver appealed a fine in court. The first instance court said the plaintiff was right and canceled the fine. The appeals court took the Customs Service's side. The case was finally resolved in the Administrative Chamber of the Supreme Court which ruled the fine unlawful.

It turns out that in 2015 the Constitutional Court issued a decision stating that the use or disposal of personal vehicles imported for the purpose of transit through the customs territory of Ukraine is not an administrative offense stipulated in Part 2 of Art. 469 of the Customs Code of Ukraine. However, despite this decision, the Customs, with the assistance of the police, continued to charge such car owners.

In its decision, the Supreme Court confirmed the decision of the Constitutional Court that there is no "temporary admission" among the grounds for a fine under the above-mentioned article.

In practice, this will most likely mean that the owners of cars with EU plates who bought their vehicles outside of Ukraine and imported them supposedly temporarily can freely use them for as long as they wish. At least, the customs cannot fine them.

But, in fact, such a decision is both a victory for owners of cars with EU plates and a defeat for everyone, including drivers of vehicles that have not been cleared at customs.

The court, having legalized let temporary but legitimate grounds for car owners to use their vehicles in Ukraine, also legalized a hole in the budget: the owners pay nothing to the budget, unlike the owners of cars with Ukrainian plates, who pay the tax reaching one third of the cost of the car being imported officially.

What's next?

Obviously, the problem should be resolved by the legislator. And here there are two ways: a wrong and quick one - to somehow amend the sanction article of the Customs Code and fine owners of cars with EU plates as they did before, which is most likely to be done. But there is also a more difficult path to legalize hundreds of thousands of "temporarily imported" cars through the introduction of moderate duties.

The business of importing "blankets" to Ukraine is worth millions of dollars, and it would hardly have existed without a "cover-up" in high offices

However, judging by the fact that the problem has not been solved for the fourth year already, the current limbo is advantageous for the authorities. After all, you can catch some legally unscrupulous and not so smart car owners and put bribes in your pockets. Or you can harshly punish them, depending on the goal. In addition, the business of importing "blankets" to Ukraine is worth millions of dollars, and it would hardly have existed without a "cover-up" in high offices.

P.S. I tried to get an explanation from the Court regarding its ruling but they explained that the Court does not explain the rulings handed down and offered that I consult "any lawyer." So much for the reformed Supreme Court… By the way, before the reform, they held monthly briefings with the participation of judges from all four chambers, where it was possible to get an answer to questions on any court ruling. But that is actually a topic for another column.

Dmytro Khyliuk