Well, here\’s a surprise:
Sources say the conflict is as much about financial interests as power: some former KGB figures are said to offer protection to businesses and are involved in money laundering and smuggling.
The fiercest battle is reported to be over control of Russia’s customs organisation.
There is indeed good money to be made by being in charge of it.
The investigation, which uncovered evidence that Tri Kita managers had bribed FSB officers to smuggle in goods without paying duty, led to the dismissal and arrest of several high-ranking FSB figures last year.
We, of course, are far too small to be of interest to such people. But over the past 6-8 months there have been increasing problems in trying to import or export anything. We\’re a little unusual in that we do indeed pay all of the applicable customs duties on our materials, as we have done for over a decade. But we\’re now, even so, being hit with endless delays, samplings and so on. All the prelude to a shakedown in fact. So while we\’re of no interest to the big boys, the littler ones seem to be looking for their slice too.
It\’s actually got so bad that we\’re looking to build a supply chain outside Russia, despite it being the obvious place for us, chock full of both our desired material and the expertise to purify it in the manner we want. It\’s not even, to be truthful, the idea that a slice of the action will be demanded. We can change pricing to deal with that. It\’s the uncertainty that matters: a two month delay in shipping means we lose (as we have done) a customer.
Doesn\’t bode well for the Russian economy as and when the oil price falls, does it?