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Testimony in Russian-Argentine cocaine case confirms defendants engaged in drug smuggling

The involvement of the defendants in smuggling cocaine from Argentina to Russia has been confirmed by their testimony and witnesses' testimony, said a representative for the Investigation Department of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs in Moscow's Tverskoy District Court, where the extension of the arrest of the two defendants - Vladimir Kalmykov and Ishtimir Hudzhamov - is being reviewed.

"The defendants' involvement has been corroborated by witness testimony and the testimony of the defendants themselves. Moreover, not all the accomplices have been located, as many of them are currently outside of Russia," the prosecutor stated, petitioning for an extension of the arrest due to the elevated difficulty of the case, which requires extensive forensic research. He added that the crimes the defendants are being charged with are considered felony offenses.

The defendants denied their involvement in the crimes, by saying that "the suitcases contained coffee, and they didn't know there were any drugs inside."

Earlier, the court extended the arrest of the third defendant in the case, Ali Abyanov, until July 12. Abyanov pleaded not guilty. According to the case materials, Abyanov partly admitted guilt when being detained, but later withdrew his testimony.

The case

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Russian and Argentine law enforcement agencies carried out a joint operation to thwart the smuggling of a large shipment of cocaine (over 362 kilos) into Europe. 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 an embassy's technical staff member whose term of employment at the diplomatic mission had ended by then.

A source close to the investigation revealed that the arrest of Kalmykov and Hudjamov took place in December 2017 in a Western neighborhood of Moscow, where the culprits 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".

The Moscow Court put the alleged ringleader, Andrey Kovalchuk, on an international most wanted list. He was later detained in Germany and arrested at Russia's request. A German court is currently considering his extradition. Earlier, Hadzhamov testified that Kovalchuk introduced himself as a Russian Foreign Ministry and Special Services employee. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, stated that Kovalchuk had never worked in the embassy or the ministry.

Two people were detained in Argentina in connection with this case.

[Source: Itar Tass, Moscow, 12Apr19]

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