Long prison sentences issued in Finland's largest drug trial

The imported narcotics had a street value of around 20 million euros, according to the prosecution. 

The drugs are suspected to have been concealed among flowers and houseplants delivered to Finland from the Netherlands. Image: Lehtikuva

Helsinki District Court has sentenced five men to 10 to 12 years in prison in a large-scale drug case in which drugs were brought to Finland from the Netherlands, hidden inside shipments of flowers and houseplants. More than 20 other people were also convicted of lesser offences in the case.

According to the police, drugs with a street value of some 20 million euros were smuggled into Finland between mid-2018 and May of 2020.

There were more than 70 charges filed in the trial, which began in mid-March 2021 and continued until midsummer.

The two Dutch men suspected of being the ringleaders of the drug operation were convicted of smuggling drugs into Finland and delivering them to various recipients, including three other men that were seen as the main organisers of the operation.

The investigation involved the National Bureau of Investigation and police departments in Helsinki, Ostrobothnia, Häme and South-East Finland. It is estimated that a large part of the drugs in the so-called Katiska case were also smuggled into Finland through the operation in question.

During the operation, large quantities of drugs were imported to Finland, such as cocaine, amphetamines, MDMA, ecstasy tablets and LSD patches.

Large cannabis farm in Lohja

Some of the defendants were convicted of aggravated drug offenses.

According to the district court, a drug offense is considered aggravated due to the large amount of drugs, the dangerous nature of the drugs, and because the distribution of drugs has yielded significant economic benefits.

Crimes occurred in Lohja, Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Lappeenranta, Lahti, Hollola, Nastola and Järvenpää, among other locations. Marijuana had been sold from an apartment in Kannelmäki, Helsinki, and the anonymous TOR network was utilised in the sale of drugs.

One of the convicted defendants cultivated cannabis in Lohja, constructing 14 tents equipped with heat lamps, air filters and top vacuum cleaners in a leased warehouse.

In Lahti, plants were grown in four tents and in Nastola there were two tents with hemp farms consisting of 30 cannabis plants.

A total of 245,000 euros received from the sale of drugs had been laundered in Vantaa, alone.

The defendants have the right to file a complaint of dissatisfaction with a court's decision with the Court of Appeal, which is a necessary first step in appealing the verdict.

Investigation began with messages from Encrochat

The investigation into the flower deliveries began with messages on the Encrochat service. Encrochat rose to popularity among criminals in the second half of the 2010s because of its much-advertised encryption capabilities.

However, the authorities' interest in the service led to its decryption, and last summer the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) and the EU's criminal justice agency, Eurojust, reported that information from Encrochat had led to a large number of arrests across Europe.

Communication in the service took place behind pseudonyms. According to the NBI, the identity of some users was revealed, but some still remain unknown.