An official spokesperson for the agency was speaking after 575 tonnes (t) of meat and fat back pork in 26 refrigerated containers from the EU were confiscated by the Russian Federal Customs Service at the Kingisepp Customs point, east of Estonia, near St Petersburg. Accompanying documents said they contained frozen mushrooms, juice, fruit jellies and chewing gum, but actually the cargo was meat from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland.
The Rosselkhoznadzor spokesperson told GlobalMeatNews: "Imports of such large volumes of pork from the EU are not possible without the connivance of the veterinary services of the European Union." He said Rosselkhoznadzor had already asked the federal national investigation committee – a prosecuting agency – to start criminal proceedings in the case "in order to prevent further supplies of illegal EU meat to Russia". Investigators would seek to bring charges against anyone involved in this smuggling network, he said.
The smuggled meat in question had been shipped to the nearby Ust-Luga seaport from Antwerp, Hamburg and Rotterdam, said Rosselkhoznadzor.
The claims of collusion come as Sergei Dankvert, head of the veterinary service has claimed his officials have uncovered a major smuggling network, shipping illicit cargoes of banned European pork to Russia. In comments sent to GlobalMeatNews, he explained: "This pipeline has already been discovered and, according to our data, so far, up to 7,500t of EU pork have been supplied…." He said the pork had been routed to Russia either through Belarus or Kazakhstan, which are members of the Customs Union with Russia.
Deliveries were disguised as pork imports from an emerging market nation, said Dankvert, who added: "However, the conducted checks indicated that all the certificates of the seized meat were fake."
His concerns about EU meat smuggling were backed by some unofficial comments from officials at the Russian Federal Customs Service, who told GlobalMeatNews that despite the existing ban, Western food imports were continuing to be illegally supplied to Russia. Smuggling has been facilitated by high levels of corruption in Russia and especially in the country’s Customs service, admitted the officials.
But some Customs teams are doing their job. Last month two consignments of US-made frozen chicken legs weighing more than 500t were confiscated by Russian Customs officers. And two batches of pork lard weighing more than 46t, produced by Poland and Germany, and a cargo of German pig liver weighing about 26t were recently detained on the Russian border.