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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sharp Rise In Theft of Minerals

Thefts of strategic and raw materials have increased in Russia by 50 percent over last year, an official for the Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

Vyacheslav Saltaganov, head of the Economic Crime Investigation Department, said the government was not able to control export of such materials from Russia to the former Soviet republics.

He said illegal exports of such products as metals, oil, minerals and timber cause "substantial damage to the country's economy."

The number of thefts increased by 50 percent in 1993 to reach 9,470 cases, he said.

The sharp difference between world and domestic prices is the main stimulus for illegal exports. The total amount of illegally exported raw and strategic materials in 1993 was estimated at 18 billion rubles ($10 million) on the Russian market, but they were valued at 100 billion rubles on world markets, Saltaganov said.

About 70 percent of all illegal exports are transported by railroad, mainly to the Baltic states, he said.

Calling for industries to set up tougher controls, he said more than 60 percent of thefts are carried out by employees of the enterprises where the materials were mined or stored.

Saltaganov said the current Criminal Code had a serious loophole: the lack of laws allowing the police to investigate smuggling from Russia to the former republics. In Soviet times, it was all part of the same country and all exports were controlled by the government, unlike the current situation.

"This loophole strongly stimulates criminals," he said.