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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

If It Smells Fishy, Throw It Back - Its Not Black Gold

Black gold is a term used by many to describe the shimmering elegance of the glorious culinary delight also known as caviar. In recent years, much like 24 carat gold nuggets, caviar become scarce, particularly that near Caspian sea ports, due to government implemented restrictions set in place to protect Sturgeon populations (refer.: WWF, the global conservation organization, and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network). Apparently such conditions have proven adequate to elicit a thriving black market industry of caviar smuggling and related illegal practices. In the past ten years hundreds of poaching, smuggling and mislabeling rings have been brought to justice. Below are a few examples of some recent US based caviar capers...

In 1999 the first high profile arrest relating to illegal smuggling of caviar, after restrictions were placed on the exportation of Caspian Sea based Sturgeon, occured when seven Polish passengers boldly checked in 16 really heavy bags. Apparently a not so close friend called on the law and made sure U.S. authorities were aware of their names, itineraries and seat assignments. The orchestrating culprits, a high ranking Polish police officer, and two officials of a Connecticut importing company. They met their charges in a Brooklyn Federal Court. Talk about a burnt bridge coming back to bite you...

May 2008, In Oregon an alleged lead player at the center of an illegal network involving Northwest -US fish populations has pleaded guilty to racketeering charges. Prosecutors report that the suspect was a broker serving wealthy customers a high-priced delicacy derived from Columbia River sturgeon. The accused, Aleksandr Grigoryan of Milwaukie, Oregon, pleaded guilty to racketeering in the case and was sentenced to 5 years' probation and thousands of dollars in fines. source: (photo, entitled Caviar dealer in jail - BEMKA324 x 316 - 301k - - appears to be image of Buster Keaton(?), but what do I know)?

Victor Tsimbal, president and owner of Miami based Beluga Caviar, Inc., was sentenced on November 6, 2003, by U.S. District Court Judge Federico Moreno after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy, smuggling and money laundering. Tsimbal also admitted to using false documents to smuggle more Beluga caviar from Russia into the United States via Poland in 1999 than the entire Russian export quota for that year. According to court files, Tsimbal paid smugglers about $500 and airfare to deliver pre-packed suit cases filled with black market caviar to apartment and hotel rooms between Europe and Miami.

Also inn Florida businessman, Max Moghaddam and his Fort Lauderdale company, Bemka Corp., were charged with conspiracy, false labeling of export line shipments, and illegal export of internationally protected fish roe from July 2005 through April 2007, according to an article in the Miami Herald. Moghaddam is reported to have described American Black Paddlefish caviar on his invoices and customs documents as 'Bowfin Roe,' which is not protected under the intergovenmental regulations of Paddlefish and other species. The case was heard by U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno Oct. 14, 2008.
Reference: Copyright 2008 by United Press International

If the above real life stories fail to elicit excitement or intrigue, suspense writer, Kirk Russell has created a 'veritable page turner' that explores, examines and exposes players caught up in the game of caviar black market trade.

'Dead Game' by Kirk Russell
$23.95 Online price
Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC
Pub. Date: October 2005
ISBN-13: 9780811850780

The latest challenge for California Fish & Game Warden John Marquez is a group of poachers who kill sturgeon for caviar and aren't too solicitous about higher species either...

Reviews and feedback are always welcome.
Happy reading,

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