15 Oct 2018 18:57

Main suspect in embassy cocaine case denies involvement in drug dealing

MOSCOW. Oct 15 (Interfax) - The main suspect in the so-called "cocaine case" Andrei Kovalchuk has told the court that he had never had anything to do with drugs, an Interfax correspondent reported from courtroom.

"I have never had anything to do with drugs in my whole life. This is my main argument," Kovalchuk said during a court hearing at the Moscow City Court on Monday.

The prosecution "does not have a single fact" that would evidence of his involvement in any wrongdoing, he said.

"The prosecution doesn't have a single evidence to prove that I have ever done anything criminal [...] I cannot threaten any witnesses, because they simply don't exist and those who do exist have never heard of any narcotics. I have never tried to escape justice but stayed right where I was - I continued to live where I had lived for ten years. I have never carried anything to Russia," Kovalchuk said.

"I have never seen heroine in my whole life and never touched it. I don't have 50 million dollars to buy it. They have deprived me of everything; they have taken me away from my family. Let me go home! What are you holding me here for?" Kovalchuk told the court.

On Monday, the Moscow City Court upheld the extension of his arrest through December 1.

According to Russia's FSB (Federal Security Service), three Russian nationals were caught red-handed in an international police operation in Moscow on receiving what they thought to be a shipment of drugs from Argentina in December of 2017. The drugs had been found in suitcases left at the Russian embassy in Buenos Aires and subsequently replaced with a fake by the investigators. The three men were charged with attempted smuggling of drugs and illegally manufacturing, selling or forwarding narcotic substances in especially large amounts. A total of more than 362 kg of cocaine were seized from illegal turnover, the FSB said.

It was reported in late February of 2018 that Moscow ordered custody of Ali Abyanov, Vladimir Kalmykov and Ishtimir Khudzhamov, all charged with the aforesaid offences in December of 2017. They all deny any wrongdoing.

The suspected mastermind of the drug smuggling operation, businessman Kovalchuk, was put on the international wanted list after the Russian authorities brought similar charges against him and a Russian court arrested him in absentia. He was detained in Berlin, Germany in March of 2018 and extradited to Moscow at the request of the Russian Prosecutor General's Office in late July. In Moscow, Kovalchuk was remanded in custody and sent to the Matrosskaya Tishina detention facility.

Kovalchuk's attorney Vladimir Zherebenkov told Interfax that his client believes he is a victim of a provocation organized by the Argentinean police with the participation of U.S. secret services aimed at discrediting the Russian diplomatic mission. Kovalchuk insists that the cases he left in a school inside the Russian embassy to Argentina (those subsequently found by police) contained nothing but some coffee, alcoholic drinks, gifts and his personal belongings, Zherebenkov said.