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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Souvenir Smuggling Trial Starts

ReutersRoxana Contreras arriving in court Tuesday to face a charge of trying to take medals and old currency out of Russia.
A Chilean woman went on trial Tuesday on a smuggling charge after she was stopped from leaving the country with several medals and old currency that she bought as souvenirs.

Roxana Contreras, 29, has been barred from leaving the city of Voronezh since mid-June, when she was stopped at the city's airport with the currency and medals, which her lawyer said she bought from a vendor at an outdoor market.

Three early 20th-century banknotes she bought and a 1924 coin she was given prompted the smuggling charge, said the lawyer, Alexei Andreyeshev. If convicted, she could be sentenced to three to seven years in prison, he said. Contreras, a graduate student in physics at the University of Missouri-St. Louis in the United States, is also charged with the illegal acquisition of official documents and state awards, which carries a fine of up to 80,000 rubles ($3,100).

That charge relates to six medals she bought at the outdoor market in Voronezh, Andreyeshev said. He said experts valued the items at less than 1,000 rubles.

Contreras says that she is not guilty, Andreyeshev said.

He criticized prosecutors for charging Contreras over the kind of items that are widely available as souvenirs at street markets throughout the country. "Walk into any antique store in the country and you will see things far more serious than this [for sale]," he said. The law requires those taking such items out of the country to get official permission.

"There was no intent to commit a crime — without intent there is no crime," Andreyeshev said by telephone.

Prosecutors, however, said ignorance was not innocence. "Not knowing the law does not free her from responsibility," prosecutor Mikhail Popov said.