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Caviar cache found in Russian morgue

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - Even people who think caviar is to die for might lose their appetite when it's stored in a hospital morgue.

But that's where St. Petersburg police found a huge stash of the delicacy this week — 175 kilograms (385 pounds) stored in the refrigerated space where cadavers are kept.

A morgue employee and a businessman were arrested after the Wednesday discovery, but police said Friday the matter is still being investigated and it is unclear if the men will be charged.

The arrested men said the caviar, or salted fish eggs, was to be a treat for hospital employees at a New Year's party.

Most of the red caviar was from salmon, but 38 kilograms (84 pounds) of the stash was black caviar from sturgeon, an endangered fish. Amid heavy restrictions on sturgeon fishing, black caviar is increasingly produced and sold illegally.

In the run-up to New Year's, one of Russia's most lavishly festive holidays, police have made a series of other seizures of caviar.

A day after the morgue discovery, St. Petersburg police said they seized an additional 100 kilograms (220 pounds) intended for illegal sale at local markets.

On Friday, the Interfax news agency reported that border guards in the eastern Ukraine city of Kharkiv confiscated 249 cans of caviar worth almost $22,000 that was allegedly being smuggled from Russia to Ukraine.

In the far eastern region of Khabarovsk, a vehicle inspection turned up 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) of caviar, leading police on a weeklong investigation, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. They raided a village home on Friday and found another 26 kilograms (57 pounds).

At two different spots along the Amur River basin, police found 47 sturgeon carcasses and 2.5 tons of live sturgeon. Sturgeon fishing in the Amur basin is prohibited.