MOSCOW, March 1. /TASS/. The defense attorney of Andrei Kovalchuk, accused of organizing the smuggling of cocaine from Argentina to Europe, has filed an appeal against his client’s arrest in absentia, as attorney Vladimir Zherebenkov himself told TASS.
"I have filed an appeal against the Tverskoi District Court’s decision to arrest my client in absentia," he said.
According to Zherebenkov, Kovalchuk, who currently resides abroad, rejects the accusation and will be ready to publicly prove his innocence in a while. The defense attorney also said that Kovalchuk claims to have been "a technical staff member" at the Russian diplomatic mission to Argentina. While working there, he used to purchase rum and coffee, which he kept in boxes in a utility room on the Russian embassy’s premises.
Alexander Kostanyants, the defense attorney of another defendant in the case Ali Abyanov, earlier told TASS that Kovalchuk had kept suitcases full of cocaine in one of the embassy’s buildings, saying they actually contained gifts and souvenirs for his family members. Kostanyants also said that Abyanov, who was a supply manager and a plumber, had placed the suitcases in the building after being misled by Kovalchuk.
According to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Kovalchuk, has been put on the Interpol wanted list and is believed to be hiding out in Germany.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier that Russian and Argentine law enforcement agencies had carried out a joint operation to prevent the smuggling of a large shipment of cocaine (389 kilos) to Europe. Russian and Argentine nationals were detained during the operation. The Foreign Ministry noted that the drug shipment found on the premises of the Russian embassy in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires belonged to the embassy’s technical staff member whose period of work at the diplomatic mission had ended by then.
According to the FSB press service, five suspects have been detained so far (three in Russia and two in Argentina), while another one - the alleged mastermind - has been put on the wanted list.
A criminal case in this connection was launched on November 15, 2017. In December, three suspects - Ishtimir Khudzhamov, Ali Abyanov and Vladimir Kalmykov - were arrested. Kovalchuk is the fourth defendant in the case. A preliminary investigation into the case has been extended until April 15.