According to Vietnamese newspaper VnExpress
, the Russian man had traveled to Vietnam, where he bought two jars of wine, one laced with a cobra and another with a scorpion.
While going through customs in the city of Chelyabinsk in his home country, the man was stopped and detained for inspection over the suspicious jars of wine.
According to Evgeni Melekhov, a representative of Chelyabinsk Customs, the possession of the cobra in his wine violated the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to which Russia is a signatory.
However, lab tests carried out by Russian authorities later showed that the cobra was in fact a common snake in the family of Colubridae whose signature ‘cobra hood’ had been made from metal wires.
If it had been a real cobra, the man could have been charged with wildlife trafficking and faced up to seven years behind bars, according to Russian laws.
Snake wine is not uncommon in Vietnam, and is rumored to improve male virility despite the absence of medical evidence.
Last year, a 61-year-old man in Ho Chi Minh City was hospitalized for kidney failure after drinking two shots of snake wine a day for years.