5 Jul 2019 15:35

Russian sailors detained in Cabo Verde on suspicion of drug smuggling to be indicted in July - Duma deputy

MURMANSK. July 5 (Interfax) - The Russian sailors from Murmansk detained in Cabo Verde on suspicion of smuggling cocaine on board the ESER vessel will be indicted this month, State Duma deputy and former head of the Murmansk city administration Alexei Veller said on Friday.

"The investigation promised to present the indictment in July. I'll remind you that, in line with local laws, it could have lasted for two years," Veller said on social networks after visiting Cabo Verde, where he met with Russian Ambassador Vladimir Sokolenko, with the sailors at the prison in the city of Praia, and with their lawyer.

The sailors are likely to be charged with drug smuggling, money laundering, and membership of an organized criminal group, he said.

"All these charges are serious and carry lengthy terms of punishment. Therefore, the lawyer has a lot of hard and complicated work to do. As for us, including the embassy, we will be providing all necessary assistance in different areas," Veller said.

The sailors "are bearing up both morally and physically," continue to insist on their innocence, and expect an acquittal, he said.

It emerged on February 1, 2019, that a vessel carrying Russian sailors had been detained at the port of Praia in Cabo Verde on suspicion of smuggling nine tonnes of cocaine.

According to the Russian embassy, the Panama-flagged bulk carrier ESER bound for Morocco entered the Praia port on January 30 after the first mate, V. Khomitsky, a Russian citizen, died on board. Forensic doctors concluded on February 6 that the man had died from natural causes. After the embassy's consular section had issued the death certificate, Khomitsky's body was repatriated to his home city of Murmansk on February 17.

The ESER crew of 12 Russian sailors was detained on January 31 after a batch of narcotic substances was found on board the vessel. On February 2, a court in Praia ordered that the sailors be arrested and held at the San Martinho prison pending trial. A lawyer appealed that ruling.