Estonians key link in Finnish drug market

  • 2002-02-28
  • Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - Finnish criminologists said this month that Estonia was playing an increasingly larger role in Finland's rising drug use.

Estonia is the main transit point for drug traffic flowing into Finland. While Estonian police consider drug trafficking into Finland inevitable, their Finnish colleagues are desperately trying to improve relations with the Baltic countries to fight it.

According to Finnish police, availability and use of narcotics is on the rise despite active policing.

"The Finnish base gained by professional Russian criminals living in Estonia has led to the easier availability of drugs in Finland, and the price of hard drugs has continued to fall," a statement from Finnish police read. "Most of the amphetamine in Finland came from Estonia and most of the heroin from Russia."

The prevention of drug-related crime remains the primary area of cooperation between Estonia and Finland.

The FinEsto Group, formed in 2000, unites Estonian and Finnish police specialists. Combating drug trafficking is high on their list of priorities.

Indrek Raudjalg, a spokesman for the Estonian police department, said three specialists from Estonia's central criminal police were part of the FinEsto Group.

"Their fields are shadowing, information exchange and analysis," said Raudjalg, who refused to reveal the concrete projects of the group.

"FinEsto has organized a number of joint operations between the Estonian and Finnish police that have led to the seizure of a large amount of drugs in Finland and Estonia and arrests of related persons," said Raudjalg.

Raudjalg said statements by Finnish police might overplay Estonia's role in drug trafficking.

"If we look back at the people arrested in connection with drug crimes, we can see they were Finns, Russians, Estonians and other nationalities involved," said Raudjalg.

"Drug traffic from Estonia to Finland is a geographical inevitability. It is the best way to get drugs into Finland with minimum risk, because the tourist movement (from Estonia to Finland and vice versa) is enormous," said Raudjalg.

"According to our information, the amphetamine brought into Finland is partly made in Estonia, and partly in Central and Eastern Europe. Heroin transported into Finland comes from Russia, but originates in Asia."

Finnish police are also planning cooperation with Latvian and Lithuanian law enforcement agencies to fight drug trafficking across the region. In June 2000 police commissioners from the Baltic states and Finland singed an anti-drug cooperation agreement. Russian authorities have also agreed to contribute to joint operations.

There were 2,301 drug-related crimes registered in Estonia in 2001; in 2000 this number was 1,976. In Finland the respective number in 1997 was 8,000 and has been constantly growing ever since.