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Caviar smuggler in Florida gets 13 months jail

USA: December 11, 2001

MIAMI - A gourmet smuggler in Florida was sentenced to 13 months in jail on Thursday for trying to sneak 110 pounds (50 kg) of Russian Beluga caviar into the United States in his luggage, prosecutors said.

Defendant Slawomir Garmulewicz was also ordered to serve two years probation upon his release, U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis said.

Highly prized Beluga caviar and other varieties of sturgeon roe are protected species under international wildlife treaties and sell for up to $1,000 a pound in the United States.

Consumers may bring up to 8.75 ounces (250 grams) into the United States for personal use without obtaining export permits from the country of origin, but cannot import any without declaring it to U.S. Customs and federal wildlife authorities.

When Garmulewicz arrived home in Miami on a Lufthansa flight from Kiev, Ukraine, via Frankfurt, Germany, in April 2000, he wrote on a Customs declaration form that he carried no food, wildlife products or commercial goods, court documents said.

But airport inspectors found 100 17.5-ounce (500-gram) tins of Beluga caviar in his two suitcases and arrested him.

Garmulewicz, a U.S. citizen, was convicted of violating the Endangered Species Act by failing to obtain the permits and violating Customs laws by not declaring the caviar.

Prosecutors said in a statement that Garmulewicz was the sixth person jailed in Miami in the last 15 months on caviar smuggling charges.

(Copyright Reuters Limited 2001)