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Moscow court forms new jury in Argentine cocaine smuggling case - lawyer

The arranged attorneys will defend the three defendants

MOSCOW, April 29. /TASS/. The Dorogomilovsky district court in Moscow has formed a new jury to consider a criminal case of cocaine smuggling from Argentina to Russia and European countries, Alexander Kostaniants, the lawyer of one of the defendants in the case, told TASS.

"Today, in the Dorogomilovsky district, the court selected the required number of jurors for the consideration of the criminal case on the merits," he said.

He added that the arranged attorneys would defend the three defendants.

"At this stage - before the pleadings - my client Ali Abyanov refused the services of arranged attorneys because he sees the upcoming meeting as a repetition of the previous one and considers their participation inappropriate," he said.

"Thus, during the trial, the court ensured the arranged attorneys for the defendants Andrei Kovalchuk, Ishtimir Khudzhamov and Abyanov," Kostaniants concluded.

He specified that the next hearing on the case is scheduled for Thursday, April 29.

On April 5, the Dorogomilovo court dismissed the jury in the cocaine smuggling case after one of the defenders of Andrei Kovalchuk, the main defendant in the case, failed to confirm his credentials.

The 12 Queens operation

The Dorogomilovsky district court, with the participation of a jury, began to consider a criminal case on the supply of cocaine in November last year. All defendants deny their involvement in the alleged crime.

The criminal proceeding was initiated on November 15, 2017. In late February, 2018, Russian Foreign Ministry disclosed a joint operation by Russian and Argentinean law enforcement agencies ("the 12 queens") on thwarting of shipment of a large batch of drugs to the European market. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, a shipment of 362kg of cocaine, discovered in one of the embassy buildings in Buenos Aires, belonged to Ali Abyanov, a member of the embassy’s technical staff, who by that moment had already finished his mission.

During the investigation, three suspects, including Abyanov, were apprehended in Russia, two more were apprehended in Argentina. The suspected mastermind, Andrei Kovalchuk, was apprehended in Germany.

The apprehension of the two Russian suspects took place in December 2017 at the Ministry of the Interior base located in the west of Moscow, where the two came to pick up their cargo. During the operation, the cocaine was replaces with flour. Abyanov was apprehended later that day near his own house; he partially admitted to his guilt, but later denied his testimonies. The defendants were charged with organized drug smuggling.