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Tax and Customs Board finds about 100 kilograms of cocaine in Muuga harbor

In mid-January, employees of the Estonian Tax and Customs Board (ETCB) found a total of nearly 100 kilograms of cocaine in two sea containers at the port of Muuga.

On January 10, during an inspection at the port of Muuga, an officer discovered 37 kilograms of cocaine in a sea container. The consignee of the peanuts was an Estonian company and the destination was Russia, the press service of the Estonian Tax and Customs Board (ETCB) (Estonian: Maksu- ja Tolliamet, or MTA) said on Wednesday.

A few days later, on January 12, a cargo ship from Ecuador arrived in Estonian waters, carrying mainly bananas, but also frozen shrimp. The ship was bound for Russia. As a result of the increased interest, ETCB, in cooperation with the K-Komando, a tier 1 police tactical unit (PTU) of the Police and Border Guard Board, directed the ship to the port of Muuga for additional customs checks, during which they discovered more than 60 kilograms of cocaine hidden among the bananas.

Criminal proceedings have been initiated by the Public Prosecutor's Office to clarify the circumstances of both cases.

Raul Koppelmaa, head of the drugs unit of the ETCB's Investigations Department, stressed that the agency is vigilant with regard to all types of cargo and monitors international transportation by land, air and sea.

"Drug trafficking is not limited to land transport, but also extends to air and sea transport, and every year there are cases of criminals trying to use cargo ships to transport drugs, mainly cocaine and heroin, under the guise of legal cargo," he said.

According to Koppelmaa, cocaine usually originates in South America, and when container ships are seen sailing from Ecuador to Russia, it is a heightened risk factor.

"We know that criminals are looking for new markets, and today those markets are Asia and Scandinavia. Estonia has been the transit country in these cases," Koppelmaa said.

State Prosecutor Raigo Aas said that the increased availability of cocaine is a growing problem across Europe. "Less than a decade ago, it was very rare to find a kilogram of cocaine in Estonia, but recently we have been finding much larger quantities. We have regularly intercepted tens or even hundreds of kilograms of drug shipments or containers for which Estonia was the transit country. This is due to the fact that the cartels and the international organized crime operating on their basis are not resting, but on the contrary have increased their production volumes and criminal activities," Aas said.

"The international drug trade is also affected by inflation, which has increased the prices of everyday goods and people's wages. However, the street price of cocaine is still at the same level as a decade ago, fueling increased demand. Unfortunately, the increased availability of cocaine has led to a significant increase in overdose deaths. It is therefore important that all countries work together internationally to prevent cocaine and other hard drugs, in both small and large quantities, from reaching the streets," added the public prosecutor.

The pre-trial investigation of the criminal case is being conducted by the Investigation Department of the ETCB under the guidance of the Public Prosecutor's Office.

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Editor: Mait Ots, Kristina Kersa

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