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Footwear exporters furious over Moscow raid
By Qin Jize (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-17 22:47

Chinese footwear exporters are calling for diplomatic help after local police raided a warehouse at a Moscow market.

Armed police raided a warehouse in a wholesale market in southern Moscow on Saturday and seized more than 100 containers of shoes worth some 80 million yuan (US$97 million). They accused Chinese merchants of lacking proper customs documents for their goods.

The shoes were owned by about 20 export businesses from Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province.

"We have reported to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Commerce and the China Leather Industry Association," said Chen, an official with the Wenzhou Leather Industry Association in East China's Zhejiang Province.

Chen, who declined to give his full name, said he wants to see efforts made towards stopping all seizures of products in Russia and protect the legal interests of the merchants.

Chen said police in Moscow seized the shoes with little in the way of explanation.

"If we had been told that we lack proper documents or need to pay a fine, then we are willing to get the necessary papers or pay the money," Chen said.

"However, it is a mess at the spot and they did not even give us any receipt for the confiscation."

As several Chinese businessmen hurried to the scene to ask for reasons, police took away their passports and detained them for six hours, Chen added. They were freed after the Chinese Embassy intervened.

Sources with Chinese Embassy in Moscow said they have been looking into the matter but did not report any further developments.

"Grey customs clearance" is a regular phenomenon among Chinese companies who turn to intermediaries to transport bulk packages of commodities in planes and container trucks.

However, the practice may fail to provide them with enough customs documents.

The lack of papers has not only affected Chinese business people but also dealers from Turkey, Pakistan and other countries that use the same practice to lower costs and improve efficiency.

Chen admitted that shoe exporters play the "grey customs clearance" game. However, he argued that they are not smugglers and are ready to deal with any necessary procedures.

The raid was not the first action taken against Chinese traders by the Moscow police. In February 2004, officers from the Russian Interior Ministry raided the Emila market in Moscow and carted away US$30 million worth of commodities from some 300 Chinese stalls on the same charge of lacking customs documents.

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