A criminal organisation smuggled a huge amount of drugs into Finland among flowers – street value up to 20 million euros

Publication date 4.2.2021 12.30 | Published in English on 4.2.2021 at 14.15
News item
Tulips, roses and other flowers in transport containers in the lorry.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Helsinki, Häme, Southeastern Finland and Ostrobothnia Police Departments have investigated illegal import, sale and distribution of drugs run from the Netherlands between June 2018 and May 2020. Investigations have been conducted into 17 drug smuggling operations involving suspected aggravated narcotics offences.

The criminal investigation has established that the acquisition, sale and packing of the drugs and the smuggling from the Netherlands into Finland and Sweden were carried out by members of a Dutch criminal organisation. Those who ordered the drugs organised the reception and distribution of the drugs in Finland.

– We have been able to obtain a clear picture of the large drug smuggling organisation concerned. We have conducted several police operations throughout the country during the criminal investigation, says Head of Investigation, Detective Superintendent Jari Räty of the NBI.

Drugs smuggled in flower deliveries

Two Dutch men aged 44 and 47 are suspected of being responsible for the organisation of the smuggling operations. The suspects received the drugs in the Netherlands, and packed and loaded them for transport to Finland. The drugs were hidden in flower and house plant deliveries, for the purpose of which the suspects had set up a company. The roller cages with flowers were transported with the other goods to the port of Vuosaari. The carrier company is not suspected of complicity in any offence.

– The suspects operated in a professional manner to organise the smuggling of the drugs. They set up a company engaged in the import of flowers and ran a legal business while organising the smuggling operations. The smuggling organisation was also careful to ensure the identification of those receiving the drugs, in particular, and to conceal the communications between the parties involved, continues Jari Räty.

In Finland, the drugs were transported to predetermined places along the transport route for the flowers and house plants, which were mostly delivered to different shops, and the drugs were collected by those responsible for receiving them. Out of the said 17 smuggling operations, three headed for Stockholm via Finland. The cash received for the sale of the drugs was hidden in the flower company's return load, and this way it ended up back in the Netherlands.

On the basis of the criminal investigation, the drug smuggling organisation distributed in Finland and in Stockholm a total of 310 kilos of marijuana, 312 kilos of amphetamine, 53 kilos of hashish, 15 kilos of cocaine, 14 kilos of MDMA, two kilos of crystal meth, 142,000 ecstasy pills, 19,000 LSD pills, 100,000 Xanax pills, two kilos of ketamine, and over 50,000 pills containing other medicinal substances.

The criminal investigation also contributed to another investigation involving large-scale drug smuggling and enabled to partly detect the smuggling in this case known as the 'Katiska tangle'. The police suspect that most of the drugs in the Katiska case were received from the smuggling organisation under investigation in the present case. It is suspected that in two out of the 17 smuggling operations that are currently under investigation the drugs were related to Katiska.

During the criminal investigation, the police have seized slightly over a million euros of criminal proceeds and have taken preventive measures on immovable property worth around 700,000 euros. Over 50 persons have been subject to police actions in Finland due to the criminal investigation. The total street value of the drugs distributed in connection with the smuggling operations concerned is estimated to exceed 20 million euros.

The international police cooperation carried out during the criminal investigation contributed to detecting and investigating serious offences on the basis of EncroChat information.

– The Finnish police are actively involved in international crime prevention cooperation, for example with Europol. Europol released information previously last year about an international operation in which the authorities managed to detect serious offences by decrypting a messaging application used by criminals, says Räty.

Besides Europol, the police have cooperated with the competent authorities of the Netherlands and Germany.

Helsinki Police investigated drug deliveries to criminal groups of foreign origin in Helsinki Metropolitan Area

In the criminal case under investigation, it is suspected that the two Dutch men detected by the NBI organised the smuggling of drugs from the Netherlands to customers in at least the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, Southeast Finland, Päijät-Häme and Ostrobothnia. The local police investigated these drug orders in 2020.

The Helsinki Police Department opened an investigation connected with the case in April 2020 when they seized 50 grams of marijuana and a rucksack full of cash during a search of premises related to another narcotics offence investigation. 

– There were over 80,000 euros of cash in the rucksack. The large amount of money gave reason to suspect that the case was connected with a larger case, says Head of Investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Toni Uusikivi of the Helsinki Police Department.

The Helsinki Police Organised Crime Investigation continued the criminal investigation and targeted a man of foreign origin living in Espoo whose identity had not yet been established with certainty at the time. It came out very soon that the NBI was also interested in this person, and a joint investigation team was set up for the case. 

Large seizures made during the investigation

In early May 2020, it was discovered that the man living in Espoo met a Dutch lorry driver in Vantaa. This lorry driver was one of the men suspected by the NBI. The man from Espoo was seen to give a package to the lorry driver during their meeting. It is suspected that this package contained vacuum packed cash. As the police suspected that the lorry driver had sent abroad the cash that he had received, a cash transport going to the Netherlands was stopped in Germany, and the police seized over 260,000 euros of vacuum packed cash suspected to originate from drug trafficking in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.

The lorry driver and the man from Espoo met again shortly after that, this time outside a service station in Sipoo, where the lorry driver unloaded cardboard boxes from his lorry and loaded them into the van operated by the man from Espoo. After the loading, the police apprehended both suspects and seized almost 50 kilos of marijuana and over 5,000 ecstasy pills from the boxes.

Furthermore, the police seized from the apartment of the man living in Espoo around 750 grams of cocaine, over 400,000 euros of cash, and around 800 grams of medicinal substance used for cutting cocaine, classified as a very dangerous medicinal substance if misused. A number of other persons involved in that smuggling operation were also apprehended on that same occasion.

– An exceptionally large amount of cash originating from the sale of the drugs was seized during the criminal investigation. It appears from the investigation that marijuana, in particular, is selling like hot cakes in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, and this has been noted in other countries as well, Toni Uusikivi says.

Suspects have links to organised crime

The lorry driver and the man living in Espoo, who has been identified as a 29-year-old Dutch citizen, are suspected to be members of a major criminal organisation in the Netherlands. The police believe that the 29-year-old man was responsible for receiving the drugs smuggled into Finland by this criminal organisation, for distributing them further to customers in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area and collecting from the customers the cash obtained from selling the drugs, and for organising the transport of this cash abroad. The police found in his apartment a banknote counter and a vacuum sealer, which is believed to have been used for packing the cash. It is suspected that the man received instructions for the drugs and cash from the leaders of the Dutch criminal organisation.

It is suspected on the basis of the criminal investigation that the customers of the Dutch criminal organisation in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area were two different criminal groups. One of these groups mainly consists of members of East African origin and the other of members from the Middle East. The police suspect that these criminal groups acquired over 200 kilos of marijuana, 11,000 ecstasy pills and up to one kilo of cocaine from the Dutch criminal organisation between late 2019 and early 2020 and distributed them further in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area.

Furthermore, it is suspected that rental cars and temporary accommodation across the Helsinki Metropolitan Area were used for the further distribution of the drugs. The police seized almost up to 100,000 euros of cash from the customers upon their apprehension. During the criminal investigation related to drug trafficking in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, a total of 16 persons have been held on remand.

– The smuggling of large amounts of drugs has traditionally been mainly carried out by foreign criminal organisations. However, the police have recently discovered that many criminal groups of foreign origin in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area have also started to distribute the drugs further. The customers of these groups mainly consist of people with the same ethnic background who live in the area, says Head of Professional Crime, Senior Detective Superintendent Markku Heinikari of the Helsinki Police Department.

Häme Police investigated reception of a large amount of drugs during closure of Uusimaa border

The Häme Police Department investigated the reception of a large amount of drugs the smuggling of which was organised by the Dutch criminal organisation in April 2020. These drugs comprised four kilos of cocaine, 44 kilos of amphetamine, 80,000 ecstasy pills and 100,000 Xanax pills.

The delivery of the drugs was arranged so that the organisation responsible for smuggling the drugs into the country gave the drugs to a 44-year-old person from Lahti who received the drugs in Järvenpää and transported them to Lahti. Since the border between Uusimaa and Häme was closed at the time because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a spare car operated by a 23-year-old driver had also been sent to collect the drugs.  

At the end of April, a third person aged 29 transported around 250,000 euros of cash to Vantaa and gave it to the smuggling organisation. This payment is believed to be related to drugs that had been delivered earlier.

The above three persons have been held on remand during the criminal investigation conducted by Häme Police. However, the reception of the drugs delivered to Lahti was organised from Lappeenranta.

Southeastern Finland Police investigated a main perpetrator in Lappeenranta

The Southeastern Finland Police Department investigated the actions of the person suspected of receiving the drugs delivered to Häme in Lappeenranta. It is suspected that this 33-year-old man from Lappeenranta made several large orders of drugs from the Netherlands to Finland and was thus involved in large-scale professional smuggling and distribution of drugs.

The suspected offences committed by the man from Lappeenranta took place between November 2019 and April 2020. He ordered large amounts of cocaine, amphetamine, ecstasy, crystal meth, and medicinal substances classified as narcotic drugs. 

The suspect was apprehended in his home in Lappeenranta on 7 December 2020 and is still held on remand. There is probable cause to suspect him of an aggravated narcotics offence. 

The case investigated by the Southeastern Finland Police is significant in terms of the amounts of narcotic drugs, the proceeds of crime, the scale of the activity and the level of organisation. The criminal proceeds gained from one of the largest amounts ordered by the man from Lappeenranta alone total, based on the street value of the drugs, up to 2.7 million euros.

– Wastewater studies for Lahti and the biggest towns in Southeast Finland have shown for a long time now that significant amounts of various drugs are used in those areas, and this criminal case gives one explanation as to where these drugs have come from. The volume has been huge, says Detective Chief Inspector Marko Heinonen of the Southeastern Finland Police.

Ostrobothnia Police conducted an investigation related to the case last year

In 2020, the Ostrobothnia Police Department investigated a case where a man living in Kristiinankaupunki acquired around 46 kilos of amphetamine from the Netherlands. Another man from Kristiinankaupunki collected these drugs, smuggled from the Netherlands in a truck, from Sipoo to Kristiinankaupunki in late 2019. The man intended to sell the amphetamine in his home to customers in Ostrobothnia and Tampere, for example.

The criminal case investigated by the Ostrobothnia Police was heard by the District Court of Ostrobothnia in late 2020. The District Court convicted 26 persons for the case, mainly of narcotics offences and aggravated narcotics offences. The total number of counts in the indictment was 47.

The man from Kristiinankaupunki who ordered amphetamine was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. A man living in Tampere who bought drugs in Kristiinankaupunki was also sentenced to imprisonment for seven years. The others were convicted to various prison sentences, and a few persons were sentenced to a fine. A total of 80,000 euros of cash were seized as criminal proceeds and preventive measures taken on property, including a house, to secure the confiscation of proceeds from crime.

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