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MOSCOW, October 27. /TASS/. Traffic police in Russia’s Far East could hardly suspect what sort of cargo an ordinary funeral van was carrying when they flagged it down on an inter-city country road for the plain reason its driver grossly abused the speed limit.
"The van’s driver explained to the police patrol he was hurrying to deliver the body of a woman from Komsomolsk-on-Amur to Khabarovsk," police spokesperson Yelena Alekseyeva, told TASS.
Apparently the man sounded not convincing enough and a shade of doubt remained. "The coffin was searched. Inside, there was no dead body but only thermopacks with black caviar hidden under the funeral wreathes," Alekseyeva said.
Two employees of the funeral agency were detained. They testified they had been promised $400 — the price of a 300 gram tin of caviar — for delivering the half-ton of black market delicacy to an unidentified recipient.
Retail prices of black caviar in Russia vary depending on quality. The highest official price for Imperial class beluga caviar is $1,500 for one kilogram. The annual shadow market of black caviar is estimated at 90% of the amount sold legally.
Russia outlawed commercial fishing of sturgeon in 2002. Since 2007, a ban was imposed on selling black caviar at outdoor bazaars. Fishing of black caviar-producing sturgeon has been prohibited since 2009. The sole legal type of caviar is the one produced at special sturgeon farms. Its annual sales average 30 tons.