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Top company officials face 12 yrs for steel, nickel smuggling

MOSCOW, April 10 (RIA Novosti) - Russian prosecutors and customs officials have seized a group suspected of smuggling stainless steel and nickel alloys worth over $1 billion, the Prosecutor General's Office said on its Web site Tuesday.

Prosecutors also said the smugglers, some of whom were top officials of several major St. Petersburg-based metals companies, failed to pay customs duties and taxes totaling some $380 million. They could face up to 12 years in prison for smuggling if found guilty.

It was not immediately clear when the prosecutors believe the criminal group started its activities.

"The heads and founders of St. Petersburg companies Baltiiskiye Stali, Alfa-Metall, Baltmetallimpeks and Delta developed a scheme to illegally export metal waste and to smuggle ready steelmaking production into Russia," the Web site reported.

Investigators said dummy companies were established abroad to keep the illegal business running.

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