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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Outdoor Markets Called a Bad Buy

Both shoppers and City Hall are being cheated by Moscow's outdoor markets, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

Gennady Tsarapkin, head of the Interior Ministry's consumer goods criminal department, told reporters that shoppers are being shortchanged and are being sold inferior goods.

Some of the common crimes hark back to Soviet-era practices of giving customers incorrect change and attaching magnets to scales to improperly show the weight of goods being sold, he said.

A more modern criminal practice at outdoor markets is deceiving customers about the quality of the goods, he said.

Valery Mironov, the ministry official in charge of economic crimes, said markets are dominated by cheap imports, more than half of which are under the control of criminal groups.

He said vendors are forced to share revenues with criminals and the market administration, leaving them with little choice but to deal with the cheapest and lowest-quality food produce. Goods are often sold after their expiration dates.

Mironov said 4,637 crimes against consumers were registered at Moscow's markets during the first nine months of the year, a more than 15 percent increase from the same period in 2000.

Despite police efforts, one in every three crimes remain either undetected or unsolved, he said.

Up to 70 percent of Moscow households regularly shop at the markets, which sell food and other consumer goods for up to 40 percent less than regular stores, the Interior Ministry said.

Mironov also said two-thirds of revenues at the city's 176 markets remain in the shadows, costing the city billions of rubles in unpaid taxes every year.

He said the markets have a combined daily turnover of up to 30 million rubles ($1 million), but only a small part of this sum is taxed due to a lack of accounting records and cash registers. As a result, the city lost some 40 billion rubles in taxes last year, he said.

The Interior Ministry has handed over to city authorities a plan to withdraw outdoor markets from the control of criminal groups, Tsarapkin said.

Under the plan, the ministry wants to establish a standard rent fee for market vendors, he said, adding that officially, market administrations often declare minimal sums as rent while in reality, they charge up to three times more.