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Monday, 18 November, 2002, 22:29 GMT
Leaks ruin caviar-in-a-coffin plan
Map of Russia showing Khabarovsk and Krasnodar
The BBC's Steve Rosenberg

Even by Russian standards, this was a daring crime.

Poachers in the city of Khabarovsk, in the Russian Far East, had plundered 300 kilograms (650 pounds) of red caviar from local salmon.

Their task now was to smuggle it to Krasnodar, seven time zones to the west. But how?

The solution they came up with was inventive, if a little macabre.

They packed the caviar into a coffin and sped to the airport. There the casket was checked onto a regular passenger flight.

Forged papers

No one, thought the smugglers, would dare peep inside: their stash would be safe.


Suspecting something fishy, airport police in Krasnodar impounded the load and uncovered the contraband

For a while everything went according to plan. The coffin cleared airport security, helped by a forged death certificate.

It was loaded, albeit with some difficulty, onboard the plane.

But during the long flight the coffin began to crack.

The secret - quite literally - leaked out.

Suspecting something fishy, airport police in Krasnodar impounded the load and uncovered the contraband.

The illegal trade in caviar in Russia is big business.

Despite attempts by the authorities to crack down on illegal fishing, poaching of fish eggs is rampant, both in the Far East and in the Caspian Sea.

But police say this is the first case they can recall of coffins being used to transport caviar contraband.

See also:

06 Mar 02 | Europe
15 Jan 02 | Europe
20 Jul 01 | Europe
05 Dec 00 | UK
Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


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