Major contraband bust

  • 2003-03-20
  • Aleksei Gunter

The record haul of fake designer clothes uncovered at Tallinn Airport last August could be connected to Tallinn City Council member Aleksandr Beloussov, the Estonian Customs Board reported last week.

"We are working on the theory that Beloussov was behind that deal," said Aivar Pau, a spokesman for the customs board.

Estonian customs officials discovered four containers containing some 30 tons of sportswear, jackets, baseball caps and other items during a search of an IL-86 plane en route from China to Russia.

Almost five tons of the garments bore fake brand names such as Reebok and Hugo Boss, according to customs board experts. It took three days just to count up all the items found in the containers.

Beloussov allegedly owns, or co-owns, the off-shore company whose name was registered in the transit documents relating to the shipment. He has so far declined to comment on the allegations.

The same company had arranged several shipments from China to Russia before August 2002, according to the customs board.

Beloussov, 58, is a graduate of the prestigious Baku and Moscow military academies, and served as political commissar in the Soviet navy.

Despite his record of serving with the Soviet military, he received Estonian citizenship during Tiit Vahi's government in 1996 and has been a member of Tallinn City Council since 1999. In 2001 Beloussov joined the Center Party.

In accordance with Estonian laws, the seized goods will be handed over to orphanages and homes for the elderly after the removal of their trademarks.

Famous clothing companies have been lobbying the Estonian Customs Board to do more to stop shipments of counterfeit goods going through Estonia since 2002, says Ivar Kasema, a senior customs specialist.

"Last year we received 58 formal appeals for action, and that was several times more than in any of the previous years," he said.

According to Kasema, customs officials uncovered over 740,000 fake products of different kinds during routine controls, most of which were made up of clothes and footwear.