MOSCOW — Soviet officials said Wednesday they may accuse American correspondent Nicholas Daniloff, already jailed on spying charges, of violating the Soviet customs code.
The Moscow bureau chief for U.S. News & World Report was arrested last Saturday by the KGB security police and accused of espionage. Daniloff has termed the arrest a "setup," and the U.S. Embassy has demanded his release.
Daniloff will be held in jail until a KGB investigation is concluded, Soviet officials said, and they implied that he would be tried.
Daniloff's wife, Ruth, said she learned that Soviet authorities now have questioned her husband's failure to declare on his customs form an old pocket watch, a Mexican bracelet and other family keepsakes when he entered the Soviet Union in 1981.
Soviet officials valued the items at 1,500 rubles (about $2,175 at the official rate), although Ruth Daniloff said the jewelry has mainly sentimental value.
'Stuff You Never Use'
She said she had declared a diamond ring and some rugs when the family arrived in Moscow but felt that other jewelry was not valuable enough to list on a customs document. "It's the kind of stuff you never use, you know, my mother's locket and a gold pocket watch that Nick got from his father on his 21st birthday, a brooch and a Mexican bracelet," she said.
Inspectors checking a Daniloff shipment of household goods to the United States, however, claimed that several items of family jewelry should have been listed on a customs declaration when the family arrived. The Daniloffs were due to return to the United States this month.
"What they are saying is that we smuggled silver and gold items into the country and since when we were leaving the country we again did not declare them, we were therefore acting in violation of Soviet customs code," Ruth Daniloff explained.
She was ordered to appear at Butovo, a customs clearance station outside Moscow, and sign a statement that the items belonged to them and were in the shipment, she said.
'Too Many Other Worries'
"I just have too many other worries at the moment," she said, explaining her decision not to comply with the directive.
Meanwhile, Mortimer B. Zuckerman, the publisher of U.S. News & World Report, who had flown to Moscow early this week in an effort to secure Daniloff's release from a Soviet prison, left for London on his way home.
He said he had "productive, but not conclusive" talks about the plight of Daniloff, a two-tour veteran of the Moscow press corps who is believed to be the first American correspondent jailed here since shortly after the end of World War II.
And Zuckerman reported that Daniloff has identified the material the KGB secret police says implicates him in espionage as film negatives identical to some he sent his magazine a year ago, according to the Washington Post.
Originals Never Used
The original negatives, which Daniloff sent for an article the magazine had been planning on "Soviet troops on their way to Afghanistan," were never used and are in the magazine's files in Washington, Zuckerman told the Post in an interview. They were given to Daniloff last year by "Misha," the same Soviet acquaintance who handed him a closed package when they met last Saturday before the reporter's arrest, Zuckerman said Daniloff told him.
The KGB said the package contained "top secret" maps and photographs of Soviet military installations. The correspondent said he had been told by "Misha" that it contained newspaper clippings.