Maxim has contacts in the customs department as, it seems, do a lot of people.
Not long after Cherkizovsky Market was closed down, shops offering customs goods started appearing all over Moscow. All the brands you could desire and all at prices that made you wonder why anyone would ever pay more than 600 rubles ($20) for Adodas trainers, let alone Noke or Ribok.
The shops’ names hinted that they were trading in confiscated customs goods, but it was just a way to get rid of goods leftover from the market, according to a charmingly in-depth investigation by Komsomolskaya Pravda, which tracked down the owner, a former Cherkizovsky trader, and asked him if they could sell dodgy tracksuits in his shops.
He said, “Yes, of course,” but only after threatening to burn down their shop if they dared to open a similar kind of operation. So, here we have a seller of fake goods not wanting his shop to be copied. Obviously not a fan of those little ironies that make life so rewarding.
The words “confiscated customs goods” on the web is like a magical spell that will give you riches, the chance to seize all you want from the transport hub of your choice, and once you have taken the best for you and your family, sell it off to all those looking for a bargain. And possibly get a bribe thrown in too.
Admittedly, the official message from the customs people is different, but there are dozens of intermediary firms out there offering the goods, whether it be individuals posting a classified ad or web sites that shout, “I got my girlfriend’s younger brother to design it.”
This week a bureaucrat in the Russian state property department, which sells confiscated goods, in the Altai region, was sentenced to eight years in jail for accepting bribes of 450,000 rubles. He apparently asked for 50 percent of the goods’ prices.
One site offers cut-price Chanel perfumes, which it boasts are made in factories in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates and are “85 to 95 percent original.”
Maxim’s site was offering cigarette lighters. The cheapest wholesale price was 6.5 rubles each, hardly a bargain.
“It’s just not cricket,” I said, and they weren’t.
In an ideal world, you would go into a custom goods shop and be met by a cheerful man in green, who would tell you how he found six bottles of Chivas Regal in a tourist’s handbag.
“Got him,” he would say clapping his hand hard on the table, his eyes twinkling, before offering you a try of said whiskey and whispering a price that sends your eyes out of your sockets with anticipation.
It’s the cheerful bit that is unrealistic, isn’t it?
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