Finnish Customs have seized several thousand kilos of snus tobacco during the course of a preliminary probe into a smuggling operation estimated to be worth millions of euros.
Customs officials have been investigating the smuggling and distribution of the prohibited substance around the Helsinki metropolitan area for the past year, and believe the criminals involved have evaded paying taxes of about five million euros.
A total of 53 people — comprising citizens of Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — are suspected of being involved in the operation, and may face charges including smuggling, aggravated tax evasion and illegal importing of goods.
Working in cooperation with Estonian customs officials, Finnish officers have stopped lorries in the ports of Helsinki and Tallinn as they suspect the imported snus has originated in Sweden, travelled via Central Europe to the Baltics and eventually to Finland before being then stored in leased premises and containers around the capital region.
The preliminary probe into the smuggling operation has also uncovered some other suspected serious crimes, such as aggravated drug offences, aggravated money laundering and firearms offences.
Along with the seizures of snus, several hundred kilograms of nicotine sachets, which are classified as prescription drugs, have also been seized by customs officials. Unlike snus, nicotine sachets do not contain tobacco.