Russia: Police catch speeding hearse full of caviar

Picture of the hearse Image copyright Mestopro TV
Image caption The hearse had a picture of the "deceased" on the windscreen, but was actually carrying caviar

A speeding hearse stopped by traffic police in Russia's far east was found to be packed with half a tonne (1,100lb) of caviar.

The vehicle's driver claimed to be transporting a body to a funeral in the city of Khabarovsk, but when officers searched inside they instead found dozens of cans of the prized delicacy. The local Gubernia news website posted footage of caviar stashed inside a coffin and concealed underneath funeral wreaths. On its windscreen, the hearse had a sign reading "funeral" and even a picture of the supposedly deceased person. The seized shipment is reported to be worth upwards of 10 million roubles ($156,000; £100,000).

The website points out that it looks like a well-planned smuggling operation, which also used another car as a decoy to distract the traffic police. "But we decided to ignore it and stop the vehicle that was following it instead," says Insp Artem Shpilev. Police arrested the driver and another funeral parlour employee who was also travelling in the hearse - both of whom denied any knowledge of the clandestine caviar, Russia's interior ministry said in a statement.

The fishing of sturgeon - which are traditionally associated with caviar - is banned in Russia to try to stop a decline in the population. But a study found that in 2010, only 19 out of 244 tonnes of caviar produced in the country were made legally.

Image copyright Mestopro TV
Image caption Some of the cans of caviar were found inside the coffin

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