Armenian authorities seize $45 million worth of heroin in unprecedented find

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YEREVAN — Law-enforcement authorities in Armenia said on Wednesday that they have seized more than 300 kilograms of heroin smuggled from neighboring Iran and destined for Europe.

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The State Revenue Committee (SRC) reported that six individuals of “different nationalities” have been arrested in what it called the country’s biggest drug bust in seven years. The government agency comprising the Armenian tax and customs services did not identify the suspects or specify their nationalities.

In a statement, the SRC said that officers of its anti-smuggling unit found the heroin hidden in 33 boxes supposedly containing baker’s yeast imported from Iran and stored at a customs warehouse in Yerevan.

“The market value of the heroin weighing, together with the packaging, about 365 kilograms is roughly $45 million,” the statement said, adding that “Western Europe” was meant to be the consignment’s final destination.

The statement also said that the SRC and the National Security Service (NSS) are taking “large-scale” investigative measures to try to identify more people possibly involved in the drug trafficking case.

The case represents the second largest amount of the Class A drug ever seized in Armenia.

In 2014, Armenian authorities confiscated as many as 850 kilograms of heroin which they said was smuggled from Iran by a drug trafficking ring led by a Turkish national. The trafficker, Osman Ugurlu, was arrested and subsequently sentenced by an Armenian court to 19 years in prison. He denied any involvement in the massive heroin smuggling.

Iran is believed to be the main source of drug trafficking in and through Armenia. Hundreds of Iranians as well as their local accomplices have been imprisoned in the South Caucasus country on corresponding charges since the 1990s.

Drug trafficking is a serious challenge for Iran as it borders Afghanistan, the world’s largest opium producer, and Pakistan, a major transit country for drugs.

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