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Shoe Exporters Furious over Moscow Raid

Chinese footwear exporters are calling for diplomatic help after armed police raided a warehouse in a Moscow wholesale market last Saturday.

The police seized more than 100 containers of shoes worth some 80 million yuan (US$9.7 million), alleging that the Chinese merchants lacked proper customs documents for their goods.

The shoes are owned by about 20 export businesses from Wenzhou, in east China's Zhejiang Province.

"We have reported it to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Commerce and the China Leather Industry Association," said an official surnamed Chen of the Wenzhou Leather Industry Association.

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

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

"If we had been told that we lacked 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 location and they did not even give us any receipt for the confiscated goods."

When several Chinese businesspeople went 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.

The Chinese Embassy in Moscow is reportedly looking into the matter but has no further developments to report.

"Gray customs clearance" is a regular practice among Chinese companies that turn to intermediaries to transport bulk shipments of commodities in planes and container trucks. But the practice may fail to provide them with proper customs documents.

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

(China Daily March 18, 2005)

Moscow Police Stop Raiding Chinese Stalls
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