Estonian police arrested four men in Tartu on Saturday, March 28, on suspicion of trafficking Vietnamese citizens to the European Union.
The group had smuggled two men and two women from Vietnam across the Estonian border and hide them in a garage in Tartu. The aim was to get them to central Europe.
The police freed the four Vietnamese and arrested three Estonian and one Russian citizens between the ages of 21-34. The men are accused of organizing and facilitating illegal border crossing, hiding illegal immigrants and planning to hand them over to the next link in the trafficking chain.
The freed Vietnamese citizens had no documents with them, but the two men said they are 16 years of age and the girls are 14 and 15 years old.
The Southern Prefecture's director of criminal intelligence, Meelis Saarepuu, said that the arrest is an important to stop Estonia from becoming a transit country for human traffickers, through which citizens of third countries enter the EU.
"What makes this crime even more heinous is the fact that the victims were the most vulnerable and defenseless members of the society - minors," Saarepuu said. "Human trafficking is usually organized by international syndicates. The police has reason to suspect that the four detainees too have committed similar crimes before and would have continued their criminal activities in the future."
Chief investigator Aro Siinmaa confirmed there is evidence to suggests that a similar scheme had been used before but further investigation is needed to determine precise details.
Toward the end of 2014, two Estonians were also arrested for trying to smuggle Vietnamese immigrants to Latvia.
The largest bust in Estonia was a few years ago, when Estonian border guards captured 56 immigrants from Vietnam in the process of crossing the Russian-Estonian border. Back then, Ago Tikk of the Estonian Police and Border Guard (PPA) estimated the actual number of Vietnamese immigrants who are trafficked to Europe through Estonia to number around a couple of hundred per year.
Editor: M. Oll