FBI, NOAA Raid Global Fishing Headquarters
FBI and federal fisheries agents on Wednesday raided the Bellevue, Wash., office of crab importer Global Fishing, whose founder Arkadi Gontmakher is currently detained in Moscow, charged by the Russian government with illegally exporting king crab.
In 2006 and 2007, Global was the largest U.S. importer of Russian king crab, with reported sales up to $148 million. FBI and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials confirmed the search to the Seattle Times. Sealed documents detailing the investigation are filed in federal court, a NOAA spokesman told the newspaper.
Gontmakher is a Ukrainian-born U.S. citizen who was arrested in Moscow last September, charged with money laundering and participating in a massive poaching operation that violated Russia's fishery conservation laws. Global Fishing has continued to operate despite Gontmakher's arrest.
U.S. king crab imports from Russia totaled a whopping 56.3 million pounds in 2006 and 61.4 million pounds in 2007. In 2004, imports were 21 million pounds.
The stunning increase drew complaints from Alaska king crab fishermen, prompting U.S. fishery enforcement officials to launch an investigation. Soon after, Gontmakher was detained in Moscow.
Russian fishery officials announced last year that they would crack down on illegal fishing, focusing initial efforts on the country's massive king crab fisheries in the Barents Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk north of Japan, which is Russia's top king crab export destination.