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Alleged mastermind behind Argentine cocaine smuggling detained in Germany – lawyer

March 02, 8:46 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Alleged organizer of smuggling cocaine from Argentina to Russia and to the European market Andrei Kovalchuk was detained in Berlin

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© Argentine Security Minister via AP

MOSCOW, March 2. /TASS/. Alleged organizer of smuggling cocaine from Argentina to Russia and to the European market Andrei Kovalchuk was detained overnight in a Berlin suburb upon Interpol’s request, his lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov told TASS on Friday.

"Kovalchuk was detained overnight in his house in a Berlin suburb. The German side will decide on his extradition to Russia," the lawyer said.

The suspect lived in a suburb of the German capital together with his wife and had not been in hiding, Zherebenkov said. "At night, police officers came to his house, they behaved correctly and detained him."

According to the lawyer, the detention was carried out upon Russia’s request to Interpol. "Our goal now is to find a German lawyer for Kovalchuk and ensure that the request to extradite him to Russia is rejected," he explained.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry earlier reported that the law enforcement agencies from Russia and Argentina had conducted a joint sting operation to bust a delivery channel of a large batch of narcotics (389 kg of cocaine) to the European market. Law enforcement officials from both countries detained citizens of Russia and Argentina on suspicion of being involved in drug trafficking.

According to the Russian Federal Security Service, five suspects have been detained so far (three in Russia and two in Argentina), while another one, Kovalchuk - the alleged mastermind - has been put on the international wanted list.

Russia launched a criminal investigation into drug trafficking on November 15, 2017. In December, three suspects - Ishtimir Khudzhamov, Ali Abyanov and Vladimir Kalmykov - were arrested. A preliminary investigation into the case has been extended until April 15.

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