Man involved in "cocaine case" was close to Russian Interior Ministry
Ivan Bliznyuk was among those who arranged joint events of the Interior Ministries of Russia and Argentina, sources said.
A source in Argentinian law enforcement agencies that is investigating the cocaine case said that one of the individuals involved in the case, a Buenos Aires policeman, Ivan Bliznyuk, had some ties in Russian state agencies, namely, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation.
RBC wrote citing a source close to the embassy that Bliznyuk had arranged events for people working in the Russian MIA. The source spoke about a tournament Bliznyuk arranged, and said that the deputy head of the Russian MIA visited Argentina then. Bliznyuk has planned four joint events of the Russian law enforcement agency and the Argentine police since 2016, according to the source.
For instance, joint sports competitions were held in February 2016, with the Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov coming to Argentina. The contestants said that Bliznyuk introduced himself as an official representative of the Argentinian side. He talked to the Russian delegation without any outsiders.
The RBC source claims that Bliznyuk was a "bridge" between the Argentinian authorities and the Russian MIA, and this was the status he used when he talked to Ambassador Viktor Koronelli. In February 2016, Bliznyuk prepared a Russian-Argentinian "Dinamiada". The website of the Dynamo Moscow Dance Sport Club describes the event as "a celebration of sports and culture with a contribution by law enforcement officers of the two countries." A group of Russian officers came to visit the event in Buenos Aires, with Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov heading the delegation.
RBC learnt that Bliznyuk was directly involved in Dinamiada organization from Silvana Yarmolyuk, the chairwoman of the coordination council of Russian compatriots in Argentina, and her predecessor in the post, Leonardo Golovanov. Amir Shamkhalov, a traffic police officer from St. Petersburg, who participated in the competition, said: "Bliznyuk was the manager who met us there, took us to places, arranged tours, was very proactive. But his conversations with the leadership seemed a priority. "
The Russian MIA refused to comment on Bliznyuk’s role in planning of the event. RBC was unable to reach Dynamo for a comment on Bliznyuk's participation in Dinamiada, since Sergei Malenko, the deputy chairman in charge of international relations was dismissed in September 2016, and the current employees did not have any information, they said. RBC could not contact Malenko either.
Another source said that a delegation from the MIA University headed by deputy head of staff, Major General Vladimir Grishin returned the visit in October 2016. Then a few months after Dinamiada, a delegation of Argentinian law enforcers - students of the Buenos Aires Academy of Public Security - came to Moscow. Their visit on May 28, 2016 is documented on the website of the Moscow Kikot University of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Bliznyuk can be found in the photos with the Argentinian policemen. Liliana Borisyuk, who introduced herself as Bliznyuk's lawyer, told RBC that her client had been involved in the planning of that and other similar visits that followed. The information was confirmed by a source close to the Russian embassy in Argentina. According to the lawyer, Bliznyuk taught at the Argentinian Academy of Public Security.
In June 2017, students of the Academy of Public Security visited the Moscow Kikot University of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the second time, which can be seen on the university’s website. Bliznyuk is in many of the photographs, and judging by the pictures, he acted as an intermediary between the university and the Argentinean guardians of order. The Argentinian prosecutor's office suggests that at least one attempt to smuggle cocaine into Russia was made during those visits, the Republic wrote.
The trial about 389 kilograms of cocaine someone had attempted to smuggle to Moscow from Argentina caused a public outcry. A large-scale joint operation of the special services of Russia and Argentina managed to stop the supply and detain several people in Argentina, including a local police officer and a man of Russian origin. The suitcases with drugs were found in the Russian embassy.
In the "cocaine case" Moscow arrested Vladimir Kalmykov, Ishtimir Khudzhamov and Ali Abyanov, the search for other defendants is ongoing. The alleged organizer of smuggling, Andrey Kovalchuk, was arrested in Germany, the authorities will decide whether to extradite him to Russia. The photos that were posted on the Dynamo website helped to untwist the drug transfer chain. The photos show that not only Bliznyuk, but also his friend, another person involved in the case, mechanic Alexander Chikalo, was involved in the negotiations. The leaders of the Russian Orthodox Patrons in Latin America Foundation (MORAL) Bliznyuk and Chikalo are depicted at the ceremonial part of the Dinamiada with the Russian Ambassador Viktor Koronelli, as well as at the negotiations between Zubov, the director of the Academy of Public Security of Buenos Aires Marcela de Lange, the functionaries of Dinamo and the officers of the Argentinian police.
Earlier it was reported that professor of IE Business school Maxim Mironov, whose children go to the school at the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Buenos Aires, where at the end of 2016 389 kg of cocaine were discovered, made a statement according to which the version of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation on the organization of drug trafficking in the school collides with reality.
According to official data, a joint Russian-Argentinian operation of law enforcement officers to identify the channel for large cocaine supplies from South America to Russia began after in December 2016 12 suitcases with almost 389 kg of cocaine, estimated at about € 50 million, were found in the warehouse of the diplomatic mission. The Russian Ambassador to Argentina Viktor Koronelli reported on the discovery to the Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Argentina Patricia Bullrich, after which the police seized the drug, replaced it with flour and organized a round-the-clock hidden surveillance of the ‘stuff’. The suitcases lay in the embassy for over a year, since one of the suspects no longer worked in the embassy. However, a year later he agreed on the delivery of his belongings to Moscow by courier service of the embassy.
Four days later, two members of the group - Vladimir Kalmykov and Ishtimir Khudzhamov - were arrested in Moscow while trying to collect the suitcases. At the same time, former employee of the embassy Abyanov was arrested, and Buenos Aires police officer Ivan Bliznyuk, who was allegedly in charge of the purchase, as well as officer of the airport, Alexander Chikalo, who organized the delivery of suitcases, were detained and taken into custody in Argentinian. Yesterday it became known that the alleged leader of the organized crime group, who, according to Clarin, is called Andrey Kovalchuk, was declared wanted through Interpol.
Economist Maxim Mironov does not agree with these data of the Foreign Ministry. On his Live Journal page Mironov wrote that it is impossible to organize such a criminal scheme without the knowledge of the guards in an institution that is continuously under the watchful eye of FSB officers. The professor sharply criticized the version of the Russian Foreign Ministry and put forward a version that the delivery of drugs to the school might involve senior officials of the Russian special services and representatives of the Russian government.
Mironov noted that he allegedly has "a little more information on this case" than the Russian media, since his children go to this school and he is personally acquainted with the Head of the security service of the embassy Oleg Vorobyev.
"The guards constantly change (there are four or five employees of the embassy security service who alternate every day). Theoretically, it is possible to corrupt only one and carry the stuff during his shift. However, this is very risky. All entrances, exits and public places are surveilled by video cameras, information from which is recorded," - says professor Mironov.
As further pens Mironov, the only way to bring such a cargo to school is to somehow agree with the security chief. The author of the post mentions the assistant to the ambassador for security Oleg Vorobyev, who, as follows from the published talks of drug dealers, was their main partner in the embassy. His name, in particular, appears in the negotiations between arrested policeman Ivan Bliznyuk and the main person involved in this case, the alleged owner of the cargo, Signor K - Andrey Kovalchuk. According to the published talks, on October 15, 2017, Kovalchuk called, presumably, Vorobyev to pick up 12 boxes of cognac and 2 boxes of cigars. In addition, he asked for a pickup or minibus. Signor O. refused on the grounds that he might have problems. "I need permission to go to the airport, and only the ambassador can give it," said the alleged Vorobyev. Later K. invited O. to have lunch, as he wanted to find out who had the keys to the closet with his suitcases. Mironov believes that after reading and even a superficial analysis of these dialogues, the entire version of the Foreign Ministry crumbles.
"It turns out that the ‘technical worker’ left 12 suitcases before he returned to Russia, and no one in the embassy suspected that there were not socks and panties, but something else. Suddenly, a powerful businessman comes and says: "Give me 12 suitcases, which your accountant left here, I will deliver them to Moscow on my private plane", - the professor writes.
Mironov argues that the criminal scheme for exporting cocaine through the Russian embassy has been practiced for a long time. But at some point there were obstacles from Ambassador Viktor Koronelli. In one of the conversations, Chikalo and Bliznyuk are discussing that Kovalchuk quarreled with Koronelli and therefore Kovalchuk lost the channel for dispatching cocaine by a diplomatic post, as it was always practiced. Kovalchuk soon promised to replace the Ambassador with a more loyal one, it was said in the conversation. Also Bliznyuk said that he always took something out in his suitcases.
Then it so happened that the Ambassador's reluctance to cover the drug cartel coincided with the change of government in Argentina. In 2015, Mauricio Macri came to power and the country significantly reduced the level of corruption among security forces, and in November 2016 a powerful campaign against drug trafficking across the country began. Mironov suggests that the police found a large consignment of cocaine, transported to the Russian embassy. To avoid a scandal, Security Minister Patricia Bullrich contacted Koronelli, who gave Argentinian police access to the embassy to confiscate cocaine and replace it with flour. He also decided to close the cocaine delivery channel. According to the official version, the Ambassador discovered cocaine on December 13, 2016 and called the police himself, but Mironov rejects this version.
"Rather, he was asked to find this cocaine, otherwise Argentina would have caused a scandal," Mironov wrote in his blog.
In addition, the professor points out that the Argentinian special services themselves also do not believe in the official version of the Foreign Ministry. It is for this reason that after the publication of this information people in Argentina began to massively leak the records of wiretapping in the press. Thus, according to Mironov, the Argentinian authorities wanted to show that this history involved the higher ranks of the embassy of Russia.
Lawyers of Oleg Korshunov, who is charged with a large fraud in organizing the production of footwear for prisoners, do not see corpus delicti in his case. The prisoners did get their shoes, and the difference in the cost of footwear made from leather and split leather is about 10%.