Operatives of the Tax and Customs Board (MTA), working with the Dutch police, Finnish customs and Europol, intercepted 3.5 tons of cocaine worth around half a billion euros on the street.
The MTA said its agents were examining refrigerated containers at Muuga Harbor on March 21. One such container with bananas from the Port of Posorja in Ecuador exhibited an anomaly, with further inspection revealing 72 black bags holding over 3,000 taped up plastic packages containing a white powder.
The substance was flagged as cocaine after a rapid test and sent to the Estonian Forensic Science Institute to determine its grade of purity.
The find constitutes one of the largest quantities of cocaine ever intercepted in the Baltic and Nordic region worth around half a billion euros retail.
Raul Koppelmaa, head of the narcotics unit of the MTA investigative arm, said that such quantities are not meant for the Estonian market that does not have enough consumers.
"The MTA received information from the Finnish customs and Dutch police about potential cocaine smuggling. Risks were flagged regarding cargo ship Milan Express that left the Port of Rotterdam on March 5 and was due at Muuga Harbor after stops at Southampton and Kotka. The ship was carrying containers most of which were headed for Russia. The MTA is working closely with the Dutch police, Finnish customs and Europol to determine the perpetrators," Koppelmaa said.
Public Prosecutor Raigo Aas said that drugs from South America are usually unloaded at major European ports.
"Based on experience and initial proceedings, we can conclude that criminals failed to unload the narcotic substance at a major port. Most cocaine is loaded onto vehicles at major ports and transported to different parts of Europe in smaller quantities. Such quantities of narcotic substances are not meant for the Estonian market," he explained.
"This find demonstrates the importance of international cooperation in our everyday work. Timely exchange of information between law enforcement organs ensures the removal of dangerous drugs from the market before they reach consumers as getting wealthy off the lives and health of others is completely unacceptable," Aas added.
Pre-trial proceedings are being handled for the Office of the Prosecutor General by the MTA.
Editor: Marcus Turovski