Late last month, employees of the Tax and Customs Board (MTA) stopped a passenger vehicle entering Estonia from Latvia via the Jäärja border checkpoint in Pärnu County that was discovered to be carrying nearly 1 kilogram of pure cocaine as well as a small amount of marijuana and cannabis seeds.
The vehicle, which was stopped as a result of a risk analysis, was a Mercedes-Benz S-Class with German plates being driven by a 34-year-old Estonian citizen. During an inspection of the vehicle, cocaine was found hidden in a hollow in the dashboard, with the packages doused in motor oil to throw off detection dogs.
According to Raul Koppelmaa, head of the Narcotics Division of the MTA's Investigative Unit, border checks disappearing within the EU has not meant the disappearance of checks on contraband moving into and out of Estonia.
"Customs inspections are conducted both internally by means of highway inspections as well as when mailing packages, for example," Koppelmaa explained. "Such risk analysis-based inspections, as we conducted this time, are an effective tool in reducing the contraband market."
According to State Prosecutor Vahur Verte, the cocaine on the move both in Estonia and elsewhere in Europe has increased in both quantity and quality.
"Whereas a few years ago, the seizing of a few hundred grams of cocaine was still considered remarkable, over the past couple of years, there have been more and more criminal cases in which suspects are handling a kilogram or more of cocaine at a time," Verte observed.
He added that the street value of one gram of cocaine may be up to €150, depending on the quality.
"As a result of the MTA's good work, criminals lost out on a potential €150,000 in criminal earnings," the state prosecutor highlighted.
The driver of the vehicle has been taken into custody by Pärnu County Court, and could face up to ten years in prison.
The pretrial investigation is being conducted by the Narcotics Division of the MTA's Investigative Unit and the Office of the Prosecutor General.
Editor: Aili Vahtla