The Dorogomilovsky Court of Moscow, on the basis of a jury verdict, sentenced four defendants in the case of 12 suitcases with cocaine found in the school of the Russian Embassy in Argentina in December 2016 from 13 to 18 years in prison. This was reported to Present Time by the lawyer of one of the defendants, Ishtimir Khudzhamov, Leonid Kozak.
Kovalchuk was sentenced to 18 years in prison in a strict regime colony and a fine of 1.8 million rubles. Former supply manager of the Russian embassy in Argentina, Ali Abyanov, was sentenced to 17 years and a fine of 1.6 million rubles. Businessmen from Moscow Vladimir Kalmykov and Ishtimir Khudzhamov were sentenced to 16 and 13 years in prison. Fines for them amounted to 1 million rubles and 900 thousand rubles, respectively.
The verdict is based on the verdict of the jury, who previously found them guilty of drug smuggling and sale (part 5 of article 228.1, paragraphs “a”, “b” of part 4 of article 229.1 of the Criminal Code), but deserving of leniency. The prosecutor asked that the defendants be sentenced to 15 to 19 years in prison. The defendants refused to plead guilty and asked to be acquitted.
According to the prosecution, the defendants bought, stored on the territory of the Russian embassy school in Buenos Aires and tried to take out almost 400 kg of cocaine from there for sale in Europe.
The case of 12 suitcases of embassy cocaine was considered in Moscow for a little over two years. Hearings began in the Solntsevsky court in November 2019, but nine months later the case was transferred to the Dorogomilovsky court and the process began anew. The meetings, at which diplomats, military officers and high-ranking Foreign Ministry officials acted as witnesses, went on in a semi-secret mode: despite the absence of an official ban, it was virtually impossible for journalists to get into the courtroom due to coronavirus restrictions.
Not a single diplomat is among the accused.
Very little is known about the biography of the main accused Andrei Kovalchuk. Witnesses and other defendants considered Kovalchuk “a big man from the Foreign Ministry”, an employee of the FSB, SVR, GRU and a representative of Gazprom International. Andrey Kovalchuk himself in the Dorogomilovsky court refused to discuss the details of his professional past, citing a non-disclosure agreement, which he allegedly gave to the FSB.
From 2013 to 2017, Kovalchuk flew ten times to Buenos Aires. He was a member of the Russian embassy, knew the then ambassador to Argentina, Viktor Coronelli, and also maintained friendly relations with the supply manager Ali Abyanov and two first secretaries responsible for the security of the diplomatic mission: first with Nikolai Shelepov, and later with his successor Oleg Vorobyov.
In parallel with the Moscow trial in Buenos Aires, two immigrants from Russia are being tried in the case of cocaine smuggling: former policeman Ivan Bliznyuk and his friend Alexander Chikalo. The first, using official authority, allegedly could smuggle the drug through police and customs controls. The second was allegedly responsible for the logistics of the criminal plan. On December 23, 2021, prosecutor Avel Cordoba asked for 16 years in prison for Ivan Bliznyuk and 13 years in prison for Oleksandr Chikalo.
Neither the FSB in Moscow nor the gendarmerie in Buenos Aires have established the origin of the consignment of Colombian cocaine with a minimum value of 30 million euros, which the defendants are accused of smuggling. Both in Moscow and in Buenos Aires, representatives of the prosecution in the courts admitted that they could not establish the route of cocaine from Colombia to Buenos Aires.
Present Time closely followed what was happening in the courts of Moscow and Buenos Aires, where the “cocaine case” was considered.
What happened in Moscow:
What happened in Buenos Aires: