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A liquid cocaine OCG’s operations disrupted by joint investigation team, with Eurojust’s support

18/12/2013

In late 2011, Estonian authorities began an investigation into an Estonian-Latvian organised criminal group (OCG), which was involved in trafficking of liquid cocaine from the Dominican Republic to Europe and Russian Federation. Following a successful coordination meeting at Eurojust, a joint investigation team (JIT) was established between the Estonian and Latvian authorities, with funding provided by Eurojust. As a result of the work of the JIT, narcotics and criminal assets were seized and the operations of the liquid cocaine-trafficking OCG were disrupted.

In March 2012, at the first of several coordination meetings held at Eurojust on this drug trafficking case, Latvian and Estonian police and judicial authorities recognised the need to join forces to combat an OCG trafficking liquid cocaine.

In December 2011, Estonian authorities began an investigation into the OCG, which was involved in cross-border trafficking of large quantities of liquid cocaine from the Dominican Republic to Europe and then on to the Russian Federation. The OCG operated out of Estonia and Latvia, using Estonian and Latvian couriers. The Netherlands was also involved, as some shipments were transported via Aruba.

A JIT agreement between Estonia and Latvia was signed in July 2012, with funding from the European Commission’s JIT Funding Project, administered by Eurojust. The JIT helped the investigators to avoid the obstacles encountered when two Member States carry out parallel investigations. The goals of the JIT were to coordinate efforts to seize the drugs, confiscate the profits, disrupt the OCG, and arrest the suspects. Proceedings are currently pending against eleven suspects.

Three members of the OCG are fugitives. If apprehended, they face sentences ranging from six years to life as well as confiscation of assets. The alleged head of the criminal organisation is a member of a Russian OCG active in Estonia.

In the period from September 2012 to March 2013, the quantity of drugs handled by the OCG was estimated to be at least 8,086 litres of liquid cocaine, which, when converted back into powdered form, would yield 16,172 kg, with an approximate street value of between EUR 556 000 and EUR 1 552 000. One courier was arrested at Tallinn Airport in possession of 1,456 kg of liquid cocaine.

Due to size and complexity, a separate confiscation proceeding will be commenced.

Raivo Sepp, Eurojust National Member for Estonia, commented on the JIT: "We have learned many valuable lessons from this successful JIT: about national differences in criminal procedure, allocation of resources, conduct of criminal proceedings on foreign territory, and the intricacies of international witness protection. Without the funding provided by the JIT Funding Project, we would not have been able to form the JIT, and without the JIT, we would not have been able to so quickly apprehend these highly organised criminals operating across national borders."