400 kg of cocaine found at Russian embassy in Argentina incinerated in Buenos Aires crematorium
Argentine Minister of Security Patricia Bullrich and Russia’s ambassador to Buenos Aires, Dmitry Feoktistov were present at the incineration of the cocaine
According to TASS Russian news agency, on August 21, 389 kg of cocaine found at the Russian embassy in Argentina were incinerated in an Argentine crematorium. Argentine Minister of Security Patricia Bullrich and Russia’s ambassador to Buenos Aires, Dmitry Feoktistov were present at the incineration.
‘A good share of the counterdrug operation is over, and we hope for further cooperation between Russia and Argentina,’ Feoktistov said. As for Bullrich, she stated that thanks to the Russian-Argentine joint special operation they managed to expose a criminal group in both countries. ‘This was a challenging task with a high standard of cooperation. Russian law-enforcement officers came seven times to Argentina,’ the Minister of Security said.
The counterdrug operation began when Russia's former ambassador to Argentina Viktor Koronelli paid a visit to the Ministry of Defense of Argentina in December, 2016. Koronelli stated that the weight of evidence suggests that there might be cocaine in one of the Russian embassy buildings. According to the Minister of Security, it was on the same night when Argentine Gendarmerie officers replaced cocaine with flour. The operation lasted for 14 months. ’At one point we thought that they were not going to come to get the luggage. We thought that they grew suspicious, but it all went off without a hitch,’ Bullrich stated.
The Investigation department of Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs is of opinion that the cocaine belongs to a businessman Andrey Kovalchuk, thought to be in Germany. He was going to resell it in Europe with the help of his Russian accomplices. In Moscow, Ali Abyanov, Embassy’s former accountant, is arrested in the ‘cocaine’ case. The investigators believe that Mr. Abyanov was tasked by Kovalchuk with warehousing of cocaine and its shipping to Russia. Two other gang members Vladimir Kalmykov and Ishtimir Khudzamov were detained by the police when they came to the warehouse of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to accept the luggage. The defendants maintain that they were responsible for bringing high-quality coffee Kopi Luwak to Russia. They are convinced that it was replaced with cocaine as a provocation by special services.
On March 1, Kovalchuk was detained in Germany. Russia’s General Procurator’s Office made a request for his extradition. In July, he was taken to Russia and sent to Matrosskaya Tishina detention center.
The fact that 389 kg of cocaine were found at Russia’s embassy in Buenos Aires became public knowledge in February, 2018. Viktor Koronelli had informed the Security Ministry of the fact a year before. After that, the cocaine suitcases were planted with tracking devices and the contents were replaced with flour. Later, the luggage was sent to Russia under surveillance by the intelligence community. A special aircraft Rossiya (that is used by Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of Russia’s Security Council) was used during the counterdrug operation.