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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Teams Seize Fishy Fortune In Black-Market Caviar Swoops

In a seven-month operation which started in April and extended from Moscow to the Far East, the Caspian Sea and the Volga delta, police have cracked down on black-market caviar cartels, seizing millions of dollars worth of goods, an Interior Ministry spokesman said Tuesday.

Colonel Boris Tereshenko, deputy head of the ministry's economic crimes department, said the joint operation, code-named Putina-94, had been carried out by police, border guards, the State Fisheries Committee and the State Customs Committee.

"A total of 626 Russian vessels were searched and more than 600,000 tons of illegally transported sea produce worth 7 billion rubles ($1.8 million) were confiscated," Tereshenko said.

Police had raided 15 underground shops packing and selling caviar and other sea products, he said.

He said police had registered 265 thefts of caviar and other marine produce worth about 1 billion rubles. More than 1,200 policemen had taken part in the operation to stop and search vessels at sea and in ports.

In one raid in the port of Vladivostok, police had found 5 tons of salmon caviar worth 350 million rubles and 650 tons of illegally transported diesel fuel aboard the ship Komsomolets Magadana, Tereshenko said.

He said another police search of the trawler Mys Revatova belonging to the joint stock company Kamchatrybprom had led to the discovery of 13 tons of salmon caviar and 10 tons of fresh frozen fish worth 760 million rubles.

"After the operation many of the vessels which violated rules of fishing stopped their illegal activity," he said. "Next year we plan to launch the same operation.

"Most of the organizers are heads of the local fish-processing plants," he said.