Last year's drug sweep in Latvia leads to international group bust

The one-tonne highway drug bust near Jēkabpils last year has helped law enforcement carry out an international bust of 44 suspects in ten countries, said Latvian State Police (VP) on November 25.

In March 2021, the VP, in cooperation with the employees of the Tax and Customs Police Administration, and the informative support of the European Union (EU) law enforcement agency “Europol”, suspended a Volvo truck on the Daugavpils highway, which was carrying a tonne of hashish.

The total amount of withdrawn substance was almost a tonne of 947 kilograms, according to the tests carried out. The value of cargo on the black market is valued between €4.5 million in wholesale and €15 million in retail.

The police indicated that this was the largest hashish cargo removed in the history of the VP. The information gathered during the investigation shows that the cargo was intended primarily for sale to the Eastern European market, using Latvia as a drug route to tranship and ship the imported drugs.

During criminal proceedings, a total of five persons are detained - members of an organized group, including persons who organized the smuggling of hashish in the territory of Latvia, and persons who illegally transported the substance.

In October this year, the investigation into criminal proceedings was completed and referred to the specialized prosecutor's office for organized crime and other sectors for the initiation of criminal proceedings against five members of the organized group, four of which are Latvian nationals and one Lithuanian citizen. 

The criminal offense investigated in Latvia is only one step from a very large and European organized crime network, said the VP.

The cargo of hashish detected and removed in Latvia provided the basis for a series of special operations in several other European countries, which was coordinated by the EU Agency's judicial cooperation in criminal matters “Eurojust”, and “Europol”.

In ten countries: Lithuania, the Czech Republic, France, Slovakia, Latvia, Poland, Norway, Germany, Spain, and the United States, a total of 44 high-level and dangerous organized criminal groups were detained and a total of 94 sanctioned searches were carried out throughout Europe on November 22 during a joint operation.

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Investigations carried out by law enforcement authorities point to a number of organized criminal groups who have worked together to carry out a variety of criminal activities on a large scale both inside and outside the European Union, including drug trafficking and money laundering.

Three of the searches have also been carried out in Latvia. These searches have been carried out in connection with additional information on possible money laundering.

Since the restoration of independence in Latvia's history, the largest drug cargo was in Koknese municipality in January 2019. Police then found a cargo of 42 cardboard boxes, most likely shipped from Ecuador. Cocaine was hidden in these boxes. In this case, several persons are detained and prosecuted in Latvia. The total weight of the substance containing cocaine without packaging was 2,197,725 grams.

 

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