Estonia part of 12 international crime investigation units in 2014
Last year, Estonian law enforcement agencies participated in the work of 12 international crime investigation units, five of which were focused on money laundering.
Since regaining independence in 1991, Estonia has been part of 33 international crime investigation groups. In 20 cases it has partnered up with Finland. The longest, and a still ongoing investigation, was launched into the hijacking of MV Arctic Sea, ETV's news program "Aktuaalne Kaamera" reported.
Another joint operation, code-named Sprite, was launched in the summer of 2013, when the Estonian Central Criminal Police received information about an Estonian-run drug carter, that was trafficking illegal substances from western Europe to Finland. Twenty-five people, among them 20 Estonians, were arrested half a year later and it was revealed that the gang had smuggled 76 kilos of amphetamine and smaller amounts of other illegal substances to Finland.
Nine out of the 33 investigation units have dealt with drug trafficking.
"With shorter investigation deadlines, joint units are the most effective way to fight international crime networks. It speeds up the cooperation process and avoids excessive bureaucracy, which detectives have never really liked," said Ivo Kolk, Director of Interpol's Estonian Bureau.
The keywords that characterize international cooperation are speed and efficiency, or how fast we can exchange information and evidence, said Prosecutor General Lavly Perling.
"We've had, and hopefully continue to have, very good cooperation with Finland and Sweden. It's not bad with the Baltic states either, but there are some aspects that need further reflection," she said, adding that cooperation with Russia is problematic and there is no direct communication with the Russian General Prosecutor's Office.
In 2014, Estonia got 568 requests for mutual legal assistance (MLA) from other countries, and filed 162.
"Although there is a type of criminals called guest-criminals, who are like migratory locusts, committing crimes in different country, they are not a big problem in Estonia, for the country is small and the people rather attentive. However, criminals from Estonia have committed crime sprees abroad; hence the high number of MLA requests," Kolk said.
The number of extradition request has also gone up in recent years.
"In 2014, we got 48 extradition requests," Perling said. "It's a large and exponential increase. It is, nevertheless, a positive trend, for it shows that the European countries are cooperating."
Estonia put in 27 extradition requests last year.