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Four Convicted Over Cocaine Found In Russian Embassy In Argentina

Andrei Kovalchuk appears in court in Moscow in October.
Andrei Kovalchuk appears in court in Moscow in October.

MOSCOW -- Four defendants in a high-profile case involving almost 400 kilograms of cocaine found on the premises of the Russian Embassy in Argentina in 2018 have been found guilty.

A jury at the Dorogomilov district court in Moscow on December 13 convicted alleged mastermind Andrei Kovalchuk; the former maintenance department chief at the embassy in Argentina, Ali Abyanov; and businessmen Vladimir Kalmykov and Ishtimir Khudzhamov of buying and storing at the embassy school in Buenos Aires cocaine that they planned to sell in Europe.

The convicted men face up to 25 years in prison each.

None of the defendants is or was a diplomat.

In February 2018, Argentinian Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said 389 kilograms of cocaine were found in bags seized in December 2016, following a tip from the Russian ambassador and three Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers.

The cocaine was replaced with flour and the luggage was flown in 2017 to Russia, where two men were arrested when they came to pick it up, Bullrich said at the time.

The FSB said earlier that three suspects had been detained in Russia and two in Argentina in what both countries said was a joint operation.

They said the alleged mastermind -- later identified as Kovalchuk, a former technical worker at the Russian Embassy in Argentina who then resided in Germany -- was wanted under an international arrest warrant.

Germany extradited Kovalchuk to Russia in July 2018.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said later that Kovalchuk had never worked either for the ministry or for the Russian Embassy in Argentina.

In August 2018, Bullrich said all 389 kilograms of the confiscated cocaine were burned in a crematorium in Buenos Aires.

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