Flea market booty may land visitor in prison

A woman from Chile is on trial in the central Russian city of Voronezh accused of trying to smuggle aretefacts out of the country. Roxana Contreras told customs officials at the city's airport that she bought the old coins and medals at a street market as

Roxana Contreras, a 29-year-old graduate student in physics from the U.S. University of Missouri, only planned to spend her holiday in Voronezh, but had to stay longer.  She's now being tried for smuggling.

“She went to a bookseller and bought three antique bank notes.  Next day, the salesman convinced her to buy several medals,” said her lawyer Aleksey Andreeshchev.

Roxana Contreras
Roxana Contreras

Two months ago she was detained at Voronezh Airport as she was about to fly out of the country. Customs discovered the Soviet military decorations and old notes in her luggage.  She hadn't declared them. All the items are covered by Russia's strict laws on exporting and importing cultural valuables. The rules forbid objects from being taken out of the country without special permission.

“The amount of money involved in her misdemeanour is so small that legally speaking, it should be classified as a petty offence,” Aleksey Andreeshchev noted.

Contreras denies the accusation. She says she didn't know the items she bought as gifts for about $US 60, had any cultural value.

“I don’t have any expectations, but I would really like to make my case”, Roxana Contreras explained.

Roxana Contreras faces up to six years in prison and a fine of 1 MLN roubles (about $US 40,000) if found guilty.