MOSCOW, October 18 (RAPSI) – Russia’s Federal Security Service and police officers stopped activity of an international criminal group suspected of illegally catching wild falcons, which had been put on the IUCN Red List of threatened species, RIA Novosti reported on Tuesday.

According to the information of the Interior Ministry’s economic security, suspects were catching rare and valuable birds in several regions of Siberia, including Baikal’s central ecological zone and later smuggled those birds to Tajikistan.

“From there predators were transported to the Persian Gulf countries for sale and use in falcon hunt. Cost of one Red List bird is estimated at from $100,000 to $400,000 on the black market,” official representative of the Interior Ministry Irina Volk said.

Police officers have arrested four most active members of the gang in the Buryatia Republic and the Irkutsk Region, according to the statement. Officers have found twelve falcons, various poaching equipment and video materials that serve as evidence against the suspects.

A criminal case over illegal hunting and trafficking of especially valuable wild animals has been launched. Defendants in this case may be sentenced to 5-7 years in prison. Two of them have already been charged.