|MONEY-hungry vodka drinkers built a 2km-long pipeline to pump the spirit secretly across a European border.
The smugglers managed to pump 6200 litres of vodka across the Russian broder with Estonian before being caught. The scam was to make lots of money as vodka is vastly cheaper in Russia than in its ex-Soviet neighbour Estonia. "It might sound weird and unbelievable but it's a very real criminal case," Mari Luuk, a spokesman for Estonian prosecutors, said.
The smugglers, 11 Russians and Estonians, face up to five years in prison if convicted.
The illegal pipeline was discovered by Estonian tax and customs department officials in November 2004 after tax department officials found 1,159 litres of illegal alcohol in a truck in Estonia's capital Tallinn. Police records show the four main organisers of the smuggling operation, all ethnic Russians, had used the pipeline between August and November 2004.
According to prosecutors the men had pumped at least 6200 litres of illegal spirit to Estonia, avoiding paying more than $102,000 in excise duty.
"The investigation also revealed that the men had tried to sell some of the alcohol in Tallinn in early November 2004 but the quality of the spirit was too bad and no buyers were found. They then transported their cargo back to Narva and later managed to sell it in Tartu, the second largest town in Estonia," Luuk said.
A similar vodka-pipeline between Russia and Estonia was discovered in the Narva river by Estonian border guards in 2006. "That time the pipeline was discovered before it was in use," Luuk added.