Updated 8:44 AM EDT, Wed, Aug 18, 2021

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Detained Chinese Passengers Released after Tofu Shipment Mistaken For Drugs


(Photo : Reuters) A vendor arranges tofu on her stall as she waits for customers at a market in Huaibei, Anhui province, October 15, 2012.

Thirty-nine detained Chinese nationals had been released by Russian airport authorities after being mistakenly accused of smuggling drugs into Russia.

Russian police held the Chinese visitors on Friday at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow, after officials discovered in their luggage over 200 kilograms of white substance earlier suspected to be methamphetamine. 

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But later tests revealed the substance turned out to be a major ingredient in making Chinese tofu or bean curd.

The Chinese Embassy confirmed that all 39 Chinese nationals are now free after going through intense security check.

"With great effort of the Chinese Embassy in Russia, as well as the helping hand of our countrymen, Russian law enforcement agencies speeded up the examination of detained luggage. The possibility of drug trafficking was eventually ruled out and all 39 detained Chinese workers have been released," the embassy said in a statement.

Chinese embassy officials said all Chinese nationals were working for a company in northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.  They arrived in Russia from Beijing.  They have all been released in good physical condition.

Russian customs officials suspected the bags to have contained methamphetamine. Authorities immediately announced that they have foiled an attempt to smuggle over 500 pounds of methamphetamine into Moscow.

Tests were immediately carried out to determine the composition of the substance.  Based on analysis, while the substance appeared similar to methamphetamine, it was declared to be a food ingredient and not any kind of narcotics.

Russia has been stepping up measures to curb drug smuggling and pushing in the country. 

One of the latest drugs that had been popular among Russians was called "Spice", also known as "mix" or "bath salts".  It can be smoked, snorted or even injected, causing intense feeling of high, hallucinations or worse, temporary paralysis and cardiovascular problems.

Russia is home to more than eight million drug addicts, according to FSKN, Russia's top anti-drugs agency.

In 2008, Russia was branded by the United Nations to be the single largest national heroin consumer in the world.

Russians later on switched to other types of drugs, as authorities clamp on heroin flow.

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