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Police seek new leads in major Espoo cocaine haul

A preliminary enquiry has shown no firm link between the trafficked cocaine and Albanian organised crime.

A shipping container delivered to Algol's warehouse was found to have a sizeable amount of cocaine. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

Finnish law enforcement are looking for new leads to track down the masterminds behind a large amount of cocaine trafficked into the country in early December. At the time police remanded five individuals on suspicion of bringing the illegal drugs into the country.

However police said that they now suspect that the men who had broken into the warehouse of a chemical manufacturing firm were acting on orders and were not the brains behind the operation.

Police are still in the midst of a preliminary investigation, but lead investigator Lauri Hakkala of the Länsi-Uusimaa police department said that the men likely acted at the behest of ringleaders based abroad.

"The suspects’ main mission was to take possession of a large cache of narcotics and to transfer it to a different location, possible even another country," Hakkala noted.

According to Hakkala the drugs were not necessarily destined for the Finnish market, but that Finland may have been a transshipment point for the delivery. Authorities are still to identify and interview all of the parties involved in the intercepted drug haul.

Inter-departmental cooperation

In addition to the Länsi-Uusimaa police department, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Finnish Customs are investigating the case, with police leading the probe. For their part, customs officials are looking into the movements of the container in which the illegal narcotics were found following a major operation two weeks ago, as well as individuals who may have come into contact with it. The shipping container reportedly came to Helsinki from Sao Paolo in Brazil by way of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

The NBI will focus on possible international links to the case. They will likely liaise with Europol, the EU-wide police organisation whose main objective is to combat drug trafficking, money laundering and other forms of cross-border crime.

Four of the suspects are reportedly legal permanent residents of Denmark. One is registered as living in Sweden either as a citizen or permanent resident.

Police said they are focusing on the suspects’ registered addresses in Denmark and Sweden. He added that the first suspect detained has an Albanian background and resides in Finland. But he noted that it would be premature to speculate about any links to Albanian organised crime.

Largest known drug bust in Finland

In mid-December a group of masked men entered the Algol chemical warehouse in Karamalmi in Espoo, following which police sealed off the area for hours. Later the same day, police conducted a related operation at the Olympia Terminal at Helsinki’s South Harbour.

According to Hakkala a shipping container that had been delivered to Algol’s chemical warehouse was a regular delivery with nothing untoward about it. However concealed in the load was a cocaine cache that police confiscated. The company is not suspected of any wrongdoing. Hakkala speculated that the narcotics haul was one of the biggest busts in Finland.

"As far as I know the largest cocaine seizure was 20 kilograms. This batch under investigation is larger, but I cannot comment precisely on the amount or strength. The load was packed in one-kilogram batches and it is being analysed in the lab," he explained.