Russian Investigators Accuse 3 in Massive Crab Poaching Case

Russian investigators on Wednesday accused an American, a Russian and a German citizen of poaching millions of dollars of king crab for export to U.S. markets.

The Interior Ministry's Investigative Committee said the three — identified only by their surnames, Gontmakher, Embarek and Darminov — were part of a company called Eastern Fish Resources.

The company allegedly organized the harvest and illegal export of nearly 25,350 tons of king crab in 2006 and 2007 — more than seven times the government quota allotted to it, the committee said in a statement.

The three face charges of money laundering and poaching, among other things, the statement said.

According to U.S. news reports, Arkadi Gontmakher is a Ukrainian immigrant who lives in the Seattle, Washington, area. His Washington-based company, Global Fishing Inc., reportedly is the largest importer of king crab to the United States.

After his jailing in Moscow in September, Global Fishing issued a statement saying the company had "always sought to operate in a legal and ethical manner" with U.S. and Russian regulatory agencies.

It was unclear where exactly Gontmakher was jailed or whether he had a lawyer.

Poaching of king crab, caviar and other lucrative maritime products in Russia's Far East exploded after the Soviet collapse.

The rush for official quotas and illegal harvests has led to shady networks racing to export Russia's maritime resources to Korea, Japan, the United States and elsewhere.