Five days after the first news about the closure of a major channel of drug trafficking between Russia and Argentina, there remain several questions. It is still not clear how the special services intercepted the flight with cocaine, which was replaced with flour, and why it is so easy to bring 12 suitcases to the school at the embassy.
How much cocaine was seized in fact
On February 22, the Argentine media reported for the first time how the country’s secret services together with Russia found drugs in the school at the Russian embassy in Buenos Aires. According to journalists, 389 kilograms of cocaine were found in the building. The criminals packed them on 360 packages and spread out 12 suitcases, pasting them with adhesive tape.
The Argentine authorities estimated the value of the cargo at 50 million euros (3.4 billion rubles at the current rate). Sources of the local edition of Clarin clarified that the purity of cocaine “of the highest quality” was 88-95%. Presumably, it was produced in Colombia.
The Minister of Security of Argentina reported the same day that 385 kilograms of cocaine were found. This does not agree with the official Russian assessment: according to the FSB’s public relations center, more than 362 kilograms of the prohibited substance were seized from illegal circulation. The first channel reported about the found 381 kilograms of cocaine. Many Russian and foreign media have rounded up to 400 kilograms.
How did cocaine get into the Russian embassy and why did not anyone interfere
According to the Argentine authorities, on February 13, 2016, an employee of the Russian Embassy was the first to discover cocaine. Suitcases with drugs were ready to be sent to the complex at the embassy: it’s a school a few blocks from the diplomatic mission, which operates under the personnel department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a suitcase with drugs was brought to school by a “technical staff” employee who by that time had completed his business trip in Argentina. Although the agency did not give a name, later the Argentine and Russian authorities confirmed that it was a former registrar of the embassy Ali Abianov.
According to the ambassador, Abyanov could carry the drugs into the building at the embassy on the service car, leave them in the garage and later hide them in the warehouse. He did not manage to send the cargo back to Russia in the summer of 2016. As follows from the Vienna Convention, Abyanov could not carry suitcases in Russia without inspection because of his office and the status of diplomatic cargo.
One of the main questions to the situation: how the owner of the cargo managed to carry unimpeded 12 suitcases with cocaine to the guarded territory at the embassy.
Version: the school security service still knew about the cocaine
Economist Maxim Mironov, whose children study at the school at the Russian embassy in Buenos Aires, accused the Foreign Ministry of lying in his blog . According to him, the entrances are constantly guarded by special services and watch video cameras, and you can not go inside even to the parents of students. In addition, he pointed out that 12 suitcases of cocaine – it’s too much drug to “hide it in the closet in the back room.”
The Foreign Ministry in response accused Mironov of the possible role of the leader of the “local opposition cell” and attempts to arrange “anti-Russian” actions near the walls of the embassy. The Office stressed that the economist’s children are taught in absentia and are required to attend school only twice a year. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the manager had the right to go to the warehouse and technical premises at any time, and drugs could get into the building on school holidays, while there was no protection.
Version: other employees of the Russian embassy could know about the operation
In the wiretapping materials published by the Argentine media, there is talk of previous drug shipments. In them Mr. “K” (probably the businessman and the owner of the party, Andrei Kovalchuk) is discussing with Ivan Bliznyuk some Oleg Vorobyov (under the initial “O”). A person with this name works as the first secretary of the Russian embassy, who on video from one of the protest actions is listed as deputy ambassador for security. The Foreign Ministry did not comment on this.
According to audio records, on October 15, 2017, “K” told Bliznyuk that he has “12 boxes of cognac” (probably meant cocaine) and two “big cigar boxes”. “K” asked “O” to send a car or bus, but “O” at the time did not want to “get involved” because of possible problems.
It is not known when Vorobiev got acquainted with other defendants in the case, and how he acted with information about the transportation of cocaine.
How they intercepted the suitcases with “cocaine” and on whose plane it was being carried
Left for storage at school, cocaine for about a year could not be taken away or sent by diplomatic mail, as Abyanov lost his job at the embassy. As a result, Ali asked to “return his belongings” from Argentina to Moscow by courier service of the embassy. However, the drugs, which by that time had already been discovered by special services, were replaced with flour.
The Security Council said that the media version looks like “fantasy and fake”. According to the ministry, Patrushev’s plane is not used to transport diplomatic mail and cargo.
At the same time, in photos and videos of the Argentine gendarmerie, the onboard number of the aircraft (96023) is seen, in which the suitcases with “cocaine” were loaded. As RBC pointed out, the Il-96 liner with the same number uses the “Russia” flight squad that serves the top officials of the state.
A few hours after the discovery, the owner of the RussianPlanes flight registry deleted the site and explained that the information in it was “easy” to be forged. The resource was appreciated by many aviation enthusiasts, the information was taken from open source sources. The managers of the Russian president noted that the photograph with the board number could have been “falsified”.
The 96023 airborne detachment “Russia” really was in Buenos Aires in December 2017, follows from the blog Aviones en Ezeiza, whose author is engaged in spotting . In his words , the plane sat at the airport Ezeiza December 4 at 22:30 local time (4:30 on December 5, Moscow time) and flew out of his December 5 at 22:30 (6 December 4:30 MSK).
What is known about the participants in the case and where are they now?
In Russia, the case is investigated under the article on attempted smuggling of drugs and the distribution of narcotic drugs (articles 30, 229.1 and 228 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). Not all the persons involved in the case have been detained, some of them are still unknown.
In Moscow, arrested officially unemployed Abyanov Ali, the former general director of “Center of legal services” Vladimir Kalmykov and former manager on wholesales Ishtimir Khudzhamov. They were prolonged their arrest until April 13.
In Buenos Aires, Argentine policeman Ivan Bliznyuk and a native of Vladivostok Alexander Chikalo were detained. On the website of the consulate they appearas the president and vice-president of the fund “Russian Orthodox patrons in Latin America.”
Andrei Kovalchuk was not informed about the detention of the alleged organizer of the supply channel and the former technical officer of diplomatic missions in Germany. According to investigators, it was Kovalchuk who introduced Bliznyuk and Chikalo to Abyanov, who promised to smuggle drugs with a diplomatic pouch. According to the Republic, the businessman could freely enter the embassy and leave it, although he did not work in the diplomatic mission. He himself claims that he allegedly brought cocaine to Russia rather than coffee.
The case also features unidentified persons who allegedly participated in drug trafficking between Russia and Argentina.
A las 13hs presentamos una operación internacional de alta jerarquía con funcionarios envueltos en el tráfico de 385kg de cocaína entre BsAs y Moscú. Trabajo en equipo con los jueces Taiano, Ercolini e Iglesias, los Minseg de Rusia y Arg, la Gendarmería y la Policia Nac. de Rusia pic.twitter.com/0IGnWFkDI2
— Patricia Bullrich (@PatoBullrich) February 22, 2018
Human rights activist Pavel Chikov pointed out that in December 2016, when the Russian consul announced the suitcases with cocaine, in Moscow, the head of the department of the Latin American Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Pyotr Polikanov, was shot. However, there is no confirmation of the connection: the department stated that the diplomat was killed because of an accident not connected with his work.
In addition to Russia and Argentina, the investigation of the case involved thespecial services of Uruguay. In the South American country, it was suggested that drugs could be forwarded to other states through diplomatic channels