Cocaine case main defendant may stay in Germany

Cocaine case main defendant may stay in Germany
Andrey Kovalchuk

Andrey Kovalchuk, whom law enforcers in Russia and Argentina consider the author of the scheme of large cocaine deliveries through diplomatic channels, turned out to be a stateless person, which may cause legal nuances.

The main defendant of "cocaine case" Andrey Kovalchuk refused to be voluntarily extradited to Russia, Rosbalt reported. Now the request of the Prosecutor General's Office of Russia on his extradition will be considered by the Berlin court.

However, as Kommersant notes with reference to Kovalchuk's lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov, no materials for the extradition of his client have yet been received from the Prosecutor General's Office of the Russian Federation.

Andrey Kovalchuk is awaiting trial that will determine his future in the famous Berlin prison Moabit, behind the bars of which Georgy Dimitrov, Stepan Bandera, Ernst Thaelmann, Mussa Jalil and Erich Honecker were at different times. In the Nazi past, the prison was known for its torture and unbearable conditions of detention. At present, Moabit is a pre-trial detention facility for males over 21 - an analog of Russian reprimand centers. However, it has incomparably more humane conditions of detention - daily two-hour walks in the fresh air, television, sports, normal food and medical care, including dentistry.

That is why, says Rosbalt, Andrey Kovalchuk does not seek to go to Russia. According to his lawyers, Kovalchuk has chances to avoid extradition.

Although Andrey Kovalchuk had Russian and foreign passports on him, it is unclear on what grounds they were obtained. A native of the Ukrainian SSR, Andrey Kovalchuk is not listed as a Russian citizen in the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation. According to the law, persons who permanently resided in the Russian Federation as of February 6, 1992, were eligible to automatically obtain citizenship - regardless of the place of birth. However, Kovalchuk himself stated that from 1991 to 1995 he worked with the Russian Embassy in Berlin and permanently resided in Germany. Therefore he does not fall under this category.

"To become a citizen of the Russian Federation, the corresponding presidential decree is needed. Meanwhile, it is still unknown whether such a document was signed with respect to my client, we are currently clarifying this issue," lawyer Zherebenkov told Kommersant, noting that Andrey Kovalchuk's passport does not contain any marks on his registration.

Due to the fact that Kovalchuk transpired to be a stateless person, there may appear legal nuances that can influence the court's decision on his extradition. In addition, Zherebenkov said, Kovalchuk expects to be released to Ukraine, where he comes from, but this requires a request from the country where Kovalchuk, according to the lawyer, was not prosecuted.

Anyway, the defense of Andrey Kovalchuk will oppose the extradition of Kovalchuk to Russia for a number of reasons. To begin with, Kovalchuk, the only breadwinner in the family, has a one-and-a-half-year-old dependant child, and his wife is currently undergoing an examination on suspicion of a serious illness. The lawyers are also up to prove that Russian pre-trial detention centers will not be able to create conditions of detention for Kovalchuk compliant with European standards, which may pose a serious threat to him.

All these circumstances combined may become reasoning in court for refusing to extradite Kovalchuk to Russia, his defense believes.

In early March 2018, the Berlin Higher Regional Court ordered the arrest of Andrey Kovalchuk, previously put on the international wanted list for organizing the smuggling of cocaine from Argentina to Russia. Kovalchuk is the main suspect in the high-profile case centering on smuggling almost 400 kg of cocaine discovered in the school at the Russian embassy in Buenos Aires. In the framework of this case, five alleged accomplices of Andrey Kovalchuk have been apprehended in Russia and Argentina. He himself continues to insist on his innocence, arguing that the suitcases that he left in the Russian diplomatic mission contained coffee, cognac and cigars. Previously, Kovalchuk said that he had fallen victim to provocation by US special services, aimed against the staff of the Russian diplomatic corps.

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