16:30 19 September 2008
A group of suspected smugglers are to go on trail after being caught pumping cut-price vodka into the European Union, through an illegal underwater pipeline.
The accused laid a one-mile-long firewater supply line along the bottom of a reservoir that borders Russia and Estonia
Cheap Russian vodka was then pumped through the pipeline to the Estonian town of Navra. There the liquor was rebottled and resold, avoiding a small fortune in custom's duties.
The smuggling ring was discovered following a four-year probe that police have dubbed the "vodka galore" scam, which climaxed in customs investigators in the Estonian capital Tallinn seizing 1,159 litres of the alcohol.
Mari Luuk, a spokeswoman for Estonian prosecutors, told AFP: "It might sound weird and unbelievable but it's a very real criminal case".
The smugglers face up to five years in prison if convicted.
It is believed that at least another 5,000 litres of vodka was pumped through the pipeline, with an unknown quantity sold across Estonia where the liquor retails for over 30% more than in Russia.
Police have charged 11 suspects over the crime and stated that four ethnic Russians were the ring leaders.
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