During October 2001, Inspection Tiger rangers and Customs officers conducted an investigation of a wildlife crime ring operating out of the city of Ussurisk (North of Vladivostok). They ascertained that the ring had a Chinese leader who operated covertly and a Russian former Border Police lieutenant who openly dealt with certain corrupt Russian authorities.
The ring operated in a narrow stretch of the Russian-Chinese border
in the Pogranichny district. The attraction of this section is that it is infrequently patrolled, especially from the Chinese side. Both sides
of the border in this area are rice and corn fields, and by disguising themselves as agricultural workers, the criminals were able to pass
back and forth undetected.
The night before the arrest, two Inspection Tiger rangers, a Customs officer and two Border policemen met and commenced surveillance.
At 1:00pm the following day, the group spotted a mini-truck driven
by the Russian ring member. The investigators watched him throw
three bags to the ground. He then got out of the truck and radioed
the Chinese. Soon afterwards, two Chinese men in camouflage
emerged from the nearby bushes, took the bags and made to go back.
The three criminals were arrested on the spot. Inside the bags,
the rangers found 80 kilos of dried sea cucumber, with a market
value of US $8,000. Assuming that such smuggling took place every
two to three days during the year, the annual value of the illegal traffic
is estimated to be close to one million dollars.
According to the rangers, one of the arrested Chinese is probably
in the military, however further investigation of their identities has yet
to be conducted. All three are still under arrest.
As there is no direct evidence against the presumed Chinese ringleader, the authorities cannot arrest him. However, it is hoped that information that is revealed during the court case will enable the authorities to indict him at a later date.
Translated by Tatiana Dmitrenko