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Mastermind behind smuggling of Argentine cocaine claimed to be security service officer

According to Russia’s Federal Security Service, Andrei Kovalchuk, put on the Interpol wanted list, is believed to be hiding out in Germany

MOSCOW, February 28. /TASS/. Andrei Kovalchuk, the alleged mastermind behind the smuggling of cocaine from Argentina to Europe, introduced himself as a security service officer, Alexander Kostanyants, the defense attorney of one of the defendants in the case, Ali Abyanov, told TASS.

According to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Kovalchuk, put on the Interpol wanted list, is believed to be hiding out in Germany.

"Kovalchuk introduced himself to Abyanov as an undercover security service officer," the defense attorney said, adding that he did not know who Kovalchuk actually was and what his business was in Argentina. At the same time, he did not rule out that "he could be a drug dealer."

When speaking about the case, Kostanyant said that cocaine packages had been found one and a half years ago on the Russian embassy’s premises and handed over to the Argentine police. The defense attorney added that his client was not involved in the smuggling of cocaine.

Kostanyants also said that on February 21, two police officers had been arrested in Argentina in this connection, but his client was not acquainted with them.

Cocaine smuggling case

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.

According to the Russian court sources, three defendants in the case have been charged under Articles 228.1.5 and 229.1.4b of the Russian Criminal Code (illegal purchase, possession, transportation and trafficking of drugs).