Billionaire fined for smuggling a kilo of caviar through Zurich Airport

Billionaire fined for smuggling a kilo of caviar through Zurich Airport

When flying back from holidays, the allure of two-for-one duty-free deals can often catch people out as they go through customs in Switzerland. However, instead of being caught with a litre too much gin or detained trying to smuggle some steaks across the border, someone has been fined for trying to smuggle over a kilo’s worth of caviar through Zurich Airport. It later turned out that the caviar smuggler was, of all things, a billionaire.

Man tried to smuggle 1,25 kilos of caviar into Switzerland

In a statement, Swiss police revealed that back in the autumn of 2021, customs officers at Zurich Airport decided to check the luggage of a man coming off a flight from Turkey, who had walked through the “Nothing to declare” green lane. Once detained, border agents soon discovered that the man was trying to take 1,25 kilograms of caviar across the border. 

For reference, caviar is the salt-cured egg or roe of a sturgeon or other fish. While considered a luxury in much of the world, other cultures eat caviar quite regularly, with the dish often served on toast or malt pancakes.

Smuggled caviar likely worth hundreds of francs

However, the caviar confiscated by officers wasn’t the cheap stuff that comes in tubes in Sweden, with authorities identifying it as coming from the Beluga sturgeon - the best caviar available. With the fish already classified as a critically endangered species, the 1,25 kilograms of caviar likely cost hundreds if not thousands of francs. 

Unfortunately, the man was unable to indulge in his expensive treat, as officially, only small amounts of caviar can be imported before a permit is required.

Caviar smuggler turned out to be a billionaire

What’s more, it soon became apparent that the salty egg smuggler could probably have afforded to ditch his life of petty crime, head to the supermarket and buy some there: it was revealed by SRF that the culprit is a billionaire and descendant of a famous Swiss entrepreneur. While they cannot be named, the person is well known in banks and corporations around Lucerne.

He was fined 1.500 francs for smuggling the caviar, alongside 300 francs in procedural costs. If he applies for the correct permit he can get his caviar back, but if he doesn't do it in time, all of it will be destroyed.

As a country with high salaries and cost of living, the Swiss Federal Office for Customs and Border Security said in a statement that they are no stranger to people trying to smuggle in luxury goods from abroad. According to them, people flying into Bern, Zurich, and Swiss ski resorts are regularly caught trying to import luxury items, from caviar to cigars. 

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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