09:31 GMT +321 January 2020
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    According to investigators, the pensioners managed to make and sell over 40,000 bottles of bootleg vodka worth over 7.1 million rubles (about $114,500 US), and planned to produce thousands more.

    The prosecutor’s office in Russia's Chelyabinsk region has given the go-ahead for the trial of three women accused of the illegal production and sale of distilled alcohol.

    Investigators accuse the suspects, a 59-year-old and two 64-year-olds, respectively, of launching an underground vodka production operation at a mothballed state-owned distillery in Verkhneuralsk, a small town about 1,400 km east of Moscow.

    Using the plant’s production equipment and hiring local residents, the women began producing and selling tens of thousands of bottles of uncertified vodka, unloading over 40,000 bottles between November 2017 and March 2018, when their operation was uncovered by law enforcement. The suspects managed to produce an additional 90,000 bottles, but were caught before the alcohol could be sold.

    Prosecutors are accusing the elderly women of costing the trademark’s owners 540,000 rubles in damage.

    The pensioners now face serious charges under several articles of the Russian criminal code, including production of unmarked alcoholic beverages on a large scale, the use of fake certification markers and the illegal use of someone else’s copyright. The case will be tried at Verkhneuralsk’s district court in the new year.

    The story of the booze-peddling pensioners' unique ‘small business venture’ quickly spread throughout the Russian-speaking internet, with users divided on what to make of the situation. Some praised what they said was the women’s ingenuity, pointing out that they didn’t ask the state for any grants, made use of equipment that was just standing around anyway, and created employment. “God bless these babushkas. They’re modern businesswomen. Unfortunately now they’ll be eaten alive by the envious,” one user wrote. Others criticised their actions, however, saying that innovative or not, their endeavour was against the law, and potentially a health hazard.

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