MOSCOW, April 25 (RIA Novosti) - Police in Moscow have broken up a major operation involving high-ranking figures in national and local administrations smuggling goods from China, a law-enforcement source said.
"In February 2005 law-enforcement agencies received information on more than 150 railway cars arriving in Moscow Region from [the Far East port of Nakhodka] carrying consumer goods smuggled into Russia," the source said, adding that the cars had been impounded and an investigation launched.
The source said five offices of Chinese transportation companies had been searched in Moscow as part of the investigation.
"High-ranking officers of the Federal Customs Service, as well as some representatives of federal and regional authorities, were involved in the operation of this large-scale channel," the source said. "They set up commercial structures with offices [in places] including China, where with the help of Chinese transport companies they collected cargoes ready to send to Russia."
The source said the smuggling scheme involved sending more goods than officially declared on customs returns, or replacing cargoes with more expensive ones. After crossing the border, documents were issued for the cargoes on behalf of Russian citizens.
"The Russian recipients and consignors were as a rule dummies," the source said, adding that the cargoes were taken Moscow's Cherkizovsky market and given to their real - Chinese - owners via Chinese transportation companies.
The source said customs officials registered goods without making any real checks, guided only by documents provided by commercial organizations.
"Huge economic damage was thus inflicted on the state," the source said.