Smugglers built vodka pipeline

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    Smugglers built vodka pipeline


    A group of suspected smugglers are to go on trial for pumping thousands of litres of cheap Russian vodka into the European Union through an underwater pipeline.

    By Miriam Elder in Moscow
    Last Updated: 1:32PM BST 17 Sep 2008

    The accused built a 2-kilometre pipeline through a reservoir that marks the Russian-Estonian border, and managed to pump 6,200 litres of spirits across before getting caught.

    "It might sound weird and unbelievable but it's a very real criminal case," Mari Luuk, a spokesman for Estonian prosecutors, told AFP.

    The smugglers 11 Russians and Estonians face up to five years in prison if convicted.

    Vodka is vastly cheaper in Russia than in its ex-Soviet neighbour Estonia, which joined the EU in May 2004. Top of the line vodka can run to hundreds of pounds in Russia, but the man on the street often satisfies himself with bottles costing as little as 2.

    The men were caught after Estonian tax officials found 1,159 litres of untaxed alcohol hidden in a truck in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.

    The find led them to the pipeline, submerged in a reservoir near the Estonian border town of Narva, which the Russian-led smuggling ring used between August and November 2004.

    Prosecutors said the untraditional and illegal route allowed the men to avoid paying 57,000 in taxes.

    Prosecutors said the men had tried to sell a vast amount of vodka in November 2004, but found no takers since the quality was so poor. They later sold their stock in Tartu, an idyllic university town that is Estonia's second largest city.

    Hundreds of Russians die each year from drinking ultra-strong homemade vodka, and many who live in the country's poorer regions resort to drinking shoe polish and cologne in an attempt to get drunk.

    Estonian border guards discovered a similar booze smuggling pipeline in the Narva River in 2006. "That time the pipeline was discovered before it was in use," said Mari Luuk.

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    lol
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    now to just tap into it and run it into my house
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