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Russian Interior Ministry wraps up investigation into Argentine cocaine smuggling case

The Russian Interior Ministry has completed its investigation into an Argentine cocaine smuggling case, bringing final charges against the alleged ringleader Andrey Kovalchuk and other defendants, lawyer Andrei Shalayev, who represents defendant Vladimir Kalmykov, told TASS.

"The investigators have brought final charges against almost all defendants. The lawyers and their clients will now study the case files," the lawyer said, adding that charges against Ishtimir Khudzhamov would be brought later on Wednesday. According to Shalayev, the case is likely to be submitted to court by the end of the summer.

In late February 2018, Russia's Foreign Ministry said that Russian and Argentine law enforcement agencies had carried out a joint operation to thwart the smuggling of a large shipment of cocaine (over 362 kilos) into Europe. According to the Foreign Ministry, the drug shipment found on the premises of the Russian embassy in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires had belonged to an embassy's technical staff member whose term of employment at the diplomatic mission had ended by then. During the investigation, three suspects - Kalmykov, Khudzhamov and Ali Abyanov - were arrested in Russia, another two were apprehended in Argentina and Kovalchuk was detained in Germany.

Kalmykov and Khudzhamov were arrested in December 2017 in a western neighborhood of Moscow, where the culprits had arrived to accept a cocaine shipment (during the sting operation the 'cocaine' was replaced with flour). Later that day, Abyanov was arrested near his home. All three were charged as an organized crime group under the following articles of the Russian Criminal Code: "attempting to commit an offense", "Contraband", and "Illegal purchase, possession, transportation and trafficking of drugs".

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 24Apr19]

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