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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

3 Latvians Guilty Over Drug Empire

TALLINN, Estonia -- Three officials of a Latvian state company were convicted Tuesday of participating in a Europe-wide narcotics ring in a case illustrating the rise of illicit trafficking in the former Soviet Union.

Latvian investigators said the state-owned Latbiofarm produced 17 million amphetamine pills, most of which reached the streets of Belgium and the Netherlands before the operation was shut down by police in 1992.

The drug ring included companies in Germany and former Czechoslovakia, investigators said.

Police found $600,000 cash in a fireplace at the home of the Latvian company's director, in jars buried in a garden and in one of the defendants' closets.

The three officials -- former director Ilmars Penke, deputy director Vyacheslav Kukikov and central laboratory chief Janis Osis -- were convicted after a three-month trial of manufacturing the drugs and smuggling them into other European countries.

A judge sentenced them to 3 1/2 to 7 1/2 years in prison and ordered their property confiscated.