Russia Looks to Make Food Smuggling as Serious as Arms Trade


Russian customs officials want to make smuggling banned Western foods a criminal offense as serious as dealing in radioactive materials or explosives.


In retaliation to Western sanctions over its role in the Ukraine crisis, Russia last year banned certain food imports from the European Union, the U.S. and a few other countries. President Vladimir Putin this month ordered the destruction of confiscated contraband food, with hundreds of tons of fruit and cheese steamrolled and burnt in a public display of the ban enforcement.


The Federal Customs Service on Thursday published a draft bill suggesting that banned foreign foods be listed as "strategically important," a label so far reserved for radioactive materials, poison, armaments and explosives. The re-classification would allow authorities to bring criminal charges, with prison terms of up to seven years, against individuals and companies involved in smuggling.


The customs officials claim that the current penalty for banned food smuggling, a fine of up to $4,500 is not harsh enough as a deterrent.