YEREVAN (RFE/RL) – The Armenian customs service said on Wednesday that it has found and confiscated more than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of heroin from a Turkish-owned truck that crossed into Armenia from Iran.
The State Revenue Committee (SRC) said the truck driven by a Turkish man underwent an X-ray inspection at the Meghri crossing on the Armenian-Iranian border before being escorted to a customs warehouse in Yerevan. According to an SRC statement, customs officers there examined it more meticulously and found 105 kilograms (233 pounds) of heroin hidden inside the heavy vehicle’s bodywork.
The statement added that the smuggling case has been referred to Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS). The latter did not issue any statements on the massive drug bust as of Wednesday afternoon. It was thus not clear whether the truck driver, identified as Ferdi Ozdemir, was taken into custody.
The SRC released photographs of the truck and the drug consignment allegedly found inside it. It also said that the vehicle belongs to a cargo company registered in Georgia. The company’s reported name, Omertransport, suggests that it has Turkish owners.
Turkish nationals were already implicated in what was the biggest heroin seizure in Armenia’s history reported by the authorities in Yerevan in January 2014. Armenian customs officers confiscated at the time as much as 850 kilograms of the Class A drug from a Georgian-registered truck that also entered the country from Iran.
The truck’s Georgian driver as well as a Turkish citizen, Osman Ugurlu, were arrested and subsequently sentenced by an Armenian court to 17 and 19 years in prison respectively.
Armenian prosecutors claimed during their trial that Ugurlu conspired with two other Turks to transport huge amounts of heroin from Iran to Europe via Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine. They said the Turks set up a cargo firm in Georgia for that purpose in 2013. Both defendants pleaded not guilty to the accusations.
Iran is thought to be the main source of drug trafficking through Armenia. Scores of Iranians have been imprisoned in Armenia on corresponding charges over the past two decades.
“Most drugs are smuggled in trucks driven across the Iranian border crossing at Meghri,” the U.S. State Department said in its 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report. It said that with U.S. and European Union assistance Armenia is “improving its ability to detect illegal narcotics shipments.”
The report also noted that closed borders with Turkey an Azerbaijan make Armenia “less attractive for drug trafficking” and that drug abuse among Armenians is “modest.”