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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Official Held In Petersburg For Bribery

ST. PETERSBURG -- A high-ranking customs official at St. Petersburg's main Pulkovo airport has been detained on suspicion of bribery, police said Sunday.

Oleg Gavrilov, deputy head of the Pulkovo Customs House, is being held in custody following his detention May 6 by officers from the anti-organized crime task force at the GAI checkpoint opposite Pulkovo International Airport, police spokesman Oleg Kiselev said.

"This incident is of a significantly high level," Kiselev said.

Gavrilov is suspected of having accepted a $2,000 bribe from a local company to push through the needed documents to ease incoming shipments of food products, other police sources said. Officers are continuing an investigation, but no charges have yet been brought.

Also detained were Gavrilov's wife and an unidentified businessman, but Kiselev said there was no immediate information linking others to the case.

Gavrilov's wife, who works as a customs officer at another section, was later released. The businessman, believed to be a go-between, was freed upon a written promise not to leave the city.

If charged, Gavrilov could face a prison sentence of five to 15 years.

The incident came as a surprise to those familiar with Pulkovo's reputation as a by-the-books customs point.

"This news is very strange," said Sergei Petrosyan, marketing director of DHL. "Pulkovo is traditionally the toughest point we work with. They always demand that everything is perfectly in order."

Several other local trading companies also said they had not heard of previous incidents of bribery. The Pulkovo customs house handles primarily shipments passing through the airport and a limited number of overland shipments.

According to the customs house chief, Alexander Puchkov, Gavrilov was in charge of the customs point's security and law enforcement activities. The charges against Gavrilov, he added, are not connected with his regular line of duty. However, he did not wish to comment on the charges until after the investigation is completed.