TALLINN - Finnish and Estonian authorities have collaborated to uncover a large-scale drug smuggling operation that involved an Estonian-led gang exporting hundreds of kilograms of illicit substances into Finland.
The drug ring was exposed by Finnish police and Estonian authorities on Feb. 5 following a prolonged investigation. According to Finnish television channel MTV3, the 30-strong gang had been operating since early 2007 but ceased its activities in spring last year.
Finnish police reported the smugglers brought 270 kilograms of hashish, 106 kilograms of amphetamine, 6,000 Subutex pills and 400 grams of cocaine into the country 's an amount that generated an estimated 95.5 billion kroons (6.1 million euros) for the group.
According to the investigation report dozens of traffickers were involved in the smuggling. The drugs themselves were hidden in trucks and private cars which were then ferried across the Baltic Sea.
The report mentioned two Estonians, named Urmas and Andrus, as the gang's ringleaders. Urmas was arrested by Estonian authorities and turned over to their Finnish counterparts last August, while Finnish police only caught Andrus more recently. Overall, more than 10 Estonians were connected with the illegal enterprise and they now face an impending court hearing with their Finnish accomplices.
Finnish and Estonian authorities reportedly worked very closely in uncovering the smugglers, with a joint Estonian-Finnish investigation group assembled to tackle the task. The establishment of a criminal procees against Estonians connected with the drug business and their subsequent arrest remained the duty of the Estonian authorities.
According to Lavly Lepp, the leading Estonian public prosecutor, the property of four Estonian suspects and six individuals allegedly closely connected to the gang has been seized through European arrest warrants applied for by the public prosecutor's office.
"In the case of persons closely connected with the suspects there have been grounds to believe that the property in their possession has been acquired in a considerable proportion or fully at the expense of the suspects or for the prevention of confiscation," Lepp said.
Lepp said that the value of the arrested property totaled approximately 15 million kroons (960,000 euros) and consisted of houses, apartments, vacant lots, vehicles and shares in a private shareholding company.
"In the opinion of the prosecutor's office it is important in anti-drug activity to reach financiers of the drug business and arrest their property," Lepp added.
According to reports from the Finnish media, the smuggling ring reached as far as Spain, where one of the suspects was handed over to Finnish police. Finnish authorities also believe the operation to be connected to the amphetamine case involving the Bandidos motorbike gang and Finnish hockey star Jere Karalahti.