Police: Gang hid €20m worth of drugs among flowers for import into Finland

Police: Gang hid €20m worth of drugs among flowers for import into Finland

Police say two Dutch men set up a firm to import flowers via Vuosaari port – but that the shipments also included drugs.

Finnish police say they have uncovered a massive smuggling operation that brought drugs into Finland from the Netherlands, hidden in flower shipments.

Law enforcement officials say that 17 drug shipments took place between mid-2018 and May of last year. They estimate the street value of the drugs at more than 20 million euros.

Two Dutch men are suspected of being the ringleaders of the drug operation. Police say they have investigated more than 50 people for possible involvement in the criminal operation, but did not say how exactly many are now in custody.

Authorities have confiscated over a million euros in criminal proceeds as well as some 700,000 euros worth of real estate property.

Police departments in Helsinki, Häme, Southeast Finland and Ostrobothnia teamed up with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for the probe.

They cooperated with Dutch and German authorities as well as Europol and the EU Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (Eurojust), which are both based in the Netherlands.

Drug caches along floral delivery route

Two Dutch men, aged 44 and 47, are believed to be the main organisers of the operation. They are suspected of obtaining the drugs in the Netherlands before packing and loading them for transport to Finland.

The suspects had established a company to import Dutch flowers and houseplants into Finland via the port of Vuosaari in eastern Helsinki. The deliveries included concealed drugs.

The cargo shipping company is not suspected of involvement in the crimes.
In Finland, drugs were usually dropped off at locations along the route when flowers and plants were delivered to stores and then picked up by customers.

Police say that the main customers were two separate criminal organisations based in the Helsinki region, one mostly made up of people from East Africa and the other mainly of people from the Middle East.

Drug trade in Helsinki area "very international"

"This is a good example of what the organised drug trade and crime is like in the capital region at the moment: very international. In the past the drug trade was controlled by [motorcycle] gangs, but now groups of foreign origin have a really major impact," said Senior Detective Superintendent Markku Heinikari of the Helsinki Police’s professional crime department.

According to Heinikari, each international criminal group is united by a common language and ethnic background, which their customers also often share.

The gangs are suspected of major purchases from the Dutch syndicate between late 2019 and early 2020, including more than 200 kilos of marijuana, 11,000 ecstasy tablets and nearly a kilo of cocaine. The illicit substances were distributed in the Helsinki region using temporary residences and rented vehicles.

Sixteen people were detained related to this distribution in the capital area. Three of them are still in custody.

According to the preliminary investigation, the smugglers distributed in Finland and Stockholm a total of 310 kg of marijuana, 312 kg of amphetamines, 53 kg of hashish, 15 kg of cocaine, 14 kg of MDMA, 2 kg of methamphetamine, 142,000 ecstasy tablets, 19,000 LSD tabs, 100,000 Xanax tablets, 2 kg of ketamine and more than 50,000 other pills.

Three of the 17 batches of drugs passed through Finland to Stockholm, Sweden.
"The preliminary investigation has provided a clear picture of a large, systematic drug import and transport organisation. Operations have been carried out in various parts of Finland in connection with the investigation," NBI Chief Inspector Jari Räty said in a statement on Thursday.

One of the key figures in the ring is a 29-year-old Dutch man who was living in Espoo.

Police detained him and another Dutch man at a petrol station in Sipoo, just east of Helsinki. The other man was driving a van containing nearly 50 kilos of marijuana and more than 5,000 ecstasy tablets. A search of the 29-year-old’s home turned up large amounts of cash, drugs and paraphernalia.

Source: yle.fi

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