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Belarus Nabs 6 on Gem Smuggling Charges

February 8, 2005

MINSK, Belarus (AP) _ Six Russians, including a high-ranking law enforcement officer, were arrested on charges of smuggling and illegally trading gems, a state security agency spokesman said Tuesday.

The six allegedly had a ruby and about a dozen other precious stones worth an estimated $400,000 when they were detained at a Minsk cafe on Friday, said Valentin Zelenkevich, a spokesman for the KGB, Belarus’ main security agency.

One of those detained was a lieutenant colonel with the Russian Interior Ministry, which oversees law enforcement agencies, Zelenkevich said. The names of the suspects were not given.

The Russians were detained by an elite police unit after an undercover KGB security agent offered to buy a ruby for $9,000 from them.

The six were planning to smuggle diamonds into Belarus, Zelenkevich said, adding that they face up to 12 years in prison.

Valery Gribakin, a press officer with the Russian Interior Ministry, confirmed that an officer was detained, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev ordered his officers to cooperate with authorities in Belarus in the investigation, Gribakin said.

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