A Russian family of three is suspected of smuggling dozens of people to Finland through the Saimaa Canal, reports Helsingin Sanomat.
The father and his two children – a grown-up daughter and an underage son – were taken into custody after 17 people were found hiding inside their 12-metre motorboat without proper travel documents during a routine border inspection in the Saimaa Canal in June, 2017.
The Finnish Border Guard has determined, based on its pre-trial investigation, that the family made at least seven boat trips to smuggle a total of 72 people to Finland between July, 2016, and June, 2017. The passengers were forced to take sedatives to ensure they remain calm during the border-crossing and control procedures, writes Helsingin Sanomat.
The prosecution has charged each of the three suspects with aggravated arrangement of illegal immigration, demanding that the father be sentenced to six years, the daughter to five years, and the son to three and a half years in prison or, alternatively, to juvenile punishment.
Aggravated arrangement of illegal immigration carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison.
An additional seven people have been charged for their roles in transporting the undocumented immigrants from Lappeenranta to Helsinki.
The trial in the unusual human smuggling case began at the District Court of South Karelia on Monday.
Investigators have reason to believe the family was part of a larger smuggling ring. A Russian man who is believed to be a leading member of the ring was taken into custody in the capital region last summer during an operation by the Finnish Border Guard. He is suspected of having orchestrated the entry of some 150 people from Africa and Asia to the Schengen Area and of having been involved in the smuggling of roughly two kilos of marijuana to Finland.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Handout / Finnish Border Guard