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Former Finnish NHL player Karalahti faces prison sentence in drug case

HELSINKI, Finland - Former NHL player Jere Karalahti has been charged with smuggling amphetamines into the country in a case involving 19 people, including a motorcycle gang.

The Espoo District Court opened the case against Karalahti and other suspects in a local prison for security reasons. If found guilty, Karalahti could face up to six years in prison.

The 32-year-old Karalahti was charged with smuggling four kilograms of amphetamines into Finland. He also allegedly provided euro20,000 (C$29,500) for smuggling operations, prosecutors said. He has denied all the charges.

The drug ring is suspected of smuggling about 20 kilograms of amphetamines and hundreds of grams of cocaine from Estonia to Finland last year.

In December, Karalahti was taken off the ice during a practice session with his team Karpat for police questioning.

Karalahti left the NHL in 2002 after being suspended for six months for his third violation of the league's substance abuse policy. He played 121 games from 2000-02 for the Los Angeles Kings and Nashville Predators.

Karalahti joined Karpat last year after agreeing to follow the club's strict rules on alcohol and drugs, putting him in contention for a return to Finland's national team for the upcoming world championships in Canada. Karalahti was voted an all-star defenceman at the 1998 and '99 world championship.

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