Russian embassy hands ‘cocaine case’ file to Argentinian court for public trial
Defendants Ivan Bliznyuk and Aleksandr Chikalo keep insisting they have been wrongly accused by Oleg Vorobyev, the First Secretary of the Russian embassy in Argentina, who will testify as a witness in court.
The Russian embassy handed the ‘cocaine case’ file to Argentinian court, Liliana Borisyuk, the attorney of Bliznyuk and Aleksandr Chikalo, told Nastoyashchee Vremya.
The public trial will start in late fall or early winter 2018, according to the publication.
Oleg Vorobyev will testify as a witness in court. Ambassador Viktor Coronelli was the one to report the drugs in the school to Argentinian police in 2016. He will not participate in the trial. Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently transferred Koronelli to a similar position in Mexico.
Borisyuk said her clients pleaded not guilty. The defendants who are still Russian citizens asked Moscow to intervene and help them. The two said they feel abandoned by Russia. The Russian MIA later confirmed the two are Russian citizens, noting that their travel passports expired in 2017. The MIA did not specify whether it will help them.
Bliznyuk and Chikalo insist that Oleg Vorobyev, the First Secretary of the Russian embassy in Argentina, set them up and committed perjury in an attempt to protect himself, other criminals, and “drug diplomats.” Argentinian authorities “framed the guys to hide something,” Borisyuk believes.
Andrey Kovalchuk, the main defendant and alleged orchestrator of the drug trafficking scheme, expressed the same opinion many times. He is in the Moabit Prison in Germany, awaiting extradition. The Russian Prosecutor General's Office filed the extradition request in early April 2018. Kovalchuk does not want to be extradited and is doing everything he can to avoid it. Kovalchuk told German court he had nothing to do with the case and asked not to extradite him.
Let us remind you that employees of the Russian embassy in Argentina found 12 briefcases with 362 kilos of cocaine on December 13, 2016.
Argentinian and Russian police had been secretly investigating the incident for over a year when they finally arrested embassy employee Ali Abyanov and entrepreneurs Vladimir Kalmykov and Ishtimir Khudzhamov suspected of drug trafficking. They were arrested in Russia. Ivan Bliznyuk and Aleksandr Chikalo were arrested in Argentina. Kovalchuk was arrested in Germany. Argentinian media reported that the drugs were meant to be shipped as diplomatic mail. Maria Zakharova, the official spokeswoman for the Russian MIA, refuted the claim.
Vladimir Kalmykov and Ishtimir Khudzhamov
The Court ordered Vladimir Kalmykov, Ishtimir Khudzhamov, and Abyanov to jail until July 13. In mid-May 2018, the arrestees' attorneys reported that the cocaine in the briefcases had been replaced with flour and that there is no biological evidence proving their clients' guilt, according to a DNA analysis.
Meanwhile, despite Khudzhamov's claims that he and the other defendants tried to lure Kovalchuk to Russia, the defendants were not released under house arrest. Initially, the defendants were charged with violation of part 3 of Art. 30, item ‘b’ part 4 of Art. 229.1 of the Russian Criminal Code) and illicit drug sale (part 3 of Art. 30, part 5 of Art. 228.1). Now their charges were upgraded; the severely or their alleged crimes was raised. All defendants claimed this whole story is a police provocation.
The court appointed oppositionist Alexey Navalny 20-day arrest immediately after doing another term. During the hearing, he promised to respond to the director of Rosgvardiya after watching his challenge to a duel.