The Tver court of Moscow refused to release Andrei Kovalchuk on bail, who is accused of organizing the supply of cocaine from Argentina to Russia using the territory of the Russian embassy in Buenos Aires. This was reported on Tuesday, September 25, by Interfax.
"The court ruled: the petition of the investigation to satisfy, extend, with respect to the accused Kovalchuk, a preventive measure in the form of imprisonment until December 1," Judge Anatoly Belyakov announced.
Kovalchuk’s arrest expired on 26 September. The investigator insisted in court that changing the measure of restraint to a milder one is impossible because the investigators need to interview at least 20 more witnesses, send a request to Germany, obtain the results of the examinations and conduct a number of investigative actions both in Russia and abroad, where there are some accomplices in the crime. He recalled that the investigation of the case represents an increased complexity in connection with the international nature of the crime. And changing the measure of restraint will give Kovalchuk the opportunity to threaten witnesses, destroy evidence and otherwise interfere with investigative actions.
The prosecutor supported the position of the investigator, calling it justified and lawful. “The election of another preventive measure is impossible, since Kovalchuk can hide from the investigation,” the prosecutor said.
Kovalchuk himself in court said he did not know either the victims or witnesses, and all the evidence in the case has already been destroyed by Argentines. “I can’t hide, they’ve already given me away. I consider the petition unreasonable, "Kovalchuk said. His lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, added that he believes the case is a provocation by the special services of Argentina, the United States and Russia. And he asked to release Kovalchuk on bail of 3 million rubles.
In court, the investigator justified his request for an extension of the arrest also with a certificate from the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia stating that Kovalchuk does not have Russian citizenship.
The lawyer called the data of the Ministry of Internal Affairs a provocation. “On the basis of what we are dragging a stateless person to Russia?” In the absence of corpus delicti, evidence, ”he said, stressing that Kovalchuk has as many as“ three Russian passports. ” “Do you know what“ cover documents ”are? We do not fully know what kind of person this is, "Zherebenkov quotes Mediason.
At the break of the meeting, the lawyer explained the number of Russian passports, suggesting that Kovalchuk could lose his passport and receive a new passport several times.
The German police detained Andrei Kovalchuk on the evening of March 1 in his house in a suburb of Berlin. The detention was held at the request of Russia, where Kovalchuk was placed on the international wanted list through the Interpol line and arrested in absentia. On July 27, Kovalchuk was extradited to Russia and placed in the Sailor Silence Prison. He was charged with organizing the smuggling of a large consignment of cocaine from Argentina to Russia.
The "cocaine business" became known at the end of February 2018. On February 22, the Argentine newspaper Clarin reported that in December 2016, 389 kg of cocaine, packed in 12 suitcases, were found on the territory of the Russian Embassy in Buenos Aires. On the discovery of the Russian and Argentine law enforcement agencies said the Russian ambassador to Argentina, Viktor Coronelli. According to the newspaper, the drugs were intended to be shipped to Russia by diplomatic mail and could be intended for distribution during the days of the World Cup in Russia.
The same day the source told the TASS agency about a joint special operation to stop drug trafficking, conducted by the special services of Russia and Argentina. "Details of the special operation were not disclosed in the interests of joint operational activities. As soon as it becomes possible to share the details, this will be done, "he said.
A day later, the official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, confirmed that as a result of the joint operation of the law enforcement agencies of Russia and Argentina, the channel for supplying large quantities of cocaine to the European market was stopped. She clarified that the cargo of drugs was ready for shipment and was discovered in 2016 in one of the auxiliary buildings of the Russian Embassy in Buenos Aires - a school-residential complex. The suitcases belonged to a staff member of the technical staff of the embassy who had completed the business trip by the time contract.
The Russian ambassador to Argentina, Viktor Koronelli, in coordination with Moscow, handed over information to the leadership of the Argentine law enforcement agencies. A joint operation was conducted to identify those involved in the crime. Zakharova called speculation of the media's assertion that drugs could be smuggled into Russia with the use of diplomatic channels. “Such a statement of the question shows the ignorance of the mechanism and the procedure for sending diplomatic mail, the content of which is determined, of course, by non-technical staff of the representative office,” said the representative of the Russian foreign affairs agency.
In December 2017, as a result of a special operation in Moscow, which was red-handed when a consignment of drugs was found at the Russian embassy in Buenos Aires and replaced with flour, three Russian citizens were detained. They were charged with attempted smuggling of narcotic drugs and attempted to illegally manufacture, sell or send narcotic drugs on an especially large scale. In total, more than 362 kg of cocaine was seized from illegal trafficking.
In the framework of the "cocaine case" in Moscow, former head of the Russian embassy in Argentina Ali Abyanov, former general director of the Center for Legal Services LLC Vladimir Kalmykov and former sales manager of one of the capital's wholesale companies, Ishtimir Khudzhamov were arrested. Andrei Kovalchuk was arrested in absentia and put on the international wanted list by Interpol.
Lawyer Kovalchuk Zherebenkov said that his client Kovalchuk considers himself a victim of a provocation organized by the Argentine police with the participation of the American special services to discredit the Russian diplomatic mission. He claimed that in the suitcases found in the school of the Russian Embassy in Argentina, there were coffee, alcohol, gifts and personal belongings.
In Argentina, within the "cocaine case" were detained two Argentines, including a native of Russia, who took Argentine citizenship, Alexander Chikalo and former police officer Ivan Bliznyuk.
Victor Coronelli was Russia's ambassador to Buenos Aires from July 2011. In June 2018, a 60-year-old diplomat was appointed Russian ambassador to Mexico.