Sat, Feb 24, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Argentina finds drug stash in Russian diplomatic bag

AP, BUENOS AIRES

A former Russian diplomatic official and an Argentine police officer were among those arrested in connection with a large cocaine seizure at the Russian embassy in Buenos Aires that prompted a year-long investigation into an international drug ring, officials said on Thursday.

Argentine Minister of Security Patricia Bullrich said the 389kg of cocaine was hidden inside luggage that was seized in December 2016.

Authorities on Wednesday arrested Russian-Argentine citizen Alexander Chikalo, who is suspected of being in charge of the logistics, and police officer Ivan Blizniouk, who stands accused of providing contacts to jump through customs controls.

The investigation began after Russian Ambassador to Argentina Victor Koronelli and three members of the Russian Federal Security Service reported to Bullrich that they had suspicions about the diplomatic luggage found at a school that is annexed to the embassy.

Once authorities confirmed that there were drugs inside the 16 pieces of luggage, they devised a plan to catch the criminals: They swapped cocaine for flour and placed a GPS system to track the luggage.

The luggage was flown to Russia last year.

Bullrich said three Argentine customs officials traveled to Russia to monitor the delivery, and that Ishtimir Khudzhmov and Vladimir Kalmykov were arrested when they went to pick up the cargo.

A suspect, who Bullrich only referred to as “K,” was in charge of buying the drug and introducing it to the embassy in Argentina. He is still at large in Germany and is wanted under an international arrest warrant.

The logistics were also coordinated by former embassy official Ali Abyanov, who was arrested in his Moscow apartment.

Authorities said the drugs would have had a street value in Russia of about US$61 million.

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