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Spawning Caviar On The Black Market
From Novoye Russkoye Slovo
May 5, 2003

The largest supplier of black caviar to the US, Russian immigrant Arkady Panchernikov, 53, was sentenced to 21 months in prison and fined $400,000. Judge Charles P. Sifton of the United States District Court in Brooklyn sentenced Panchernikov on May 3. Sifton said that the defendant was motivated by excessive greed.

Panchernikov, the owner of an elite New York restaurant, Caviar Russe on Madison
Avenue, was found guilty of illegally trafficking caviar worth more than $600,000. Last November, he admitted to illegally trading American and Russian caviar and to violating endangered-species laws.

Moreover, Panchernikov deliberately mislabeled lower quality caviar as the more expensive beluga. Panchernikov had admitted his guilt in the course of the investigation. However, in court, he denied his previous testimony and said his case was “politically motivated.”

Federal wildlife officials say that Panchernikov’s company Caspian Star Caviar, a distributor based at Kennedy International Airport, sold sixty percent of all the black caviar sold on the American market over the past four years. Panchernikov got rich selling delicacy caviar to cruise liners and supplied it to the most prestigious restaurants in New York.

Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Monaco urged the judge to give Panchernikov the maximum possible penalty, pointing out that the illegal harvesting of roe has left sturgeon on the brink of extinction. Speaking to reporters in the court building, Monaco estimated that half of the black caviar imported into the United States is contraband.

Panchernikov’s lawyer, Gerald Shargel, rebutted: “Mr. Pancherikov is not a serial caviar criminal.” But Shargel acknowledged that the Russian immigrant had “taken unlawful steps to cut through red tape” and had not obtained the necessary export permits from the former Soviet Union.

Translated from Russian by Elizabeth LeBras.

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