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Lengthy Prison Terms Sought For Men Convicted In Russian Embassy Cocaine Case

An Argentinian police officer opens a package of cocaine that was part of a haul found in an annex building of the Russian Embassy in Buenos Aires in 2016, (file photo)

MOSCOW -- Prosecutors have asked a court in Moscow to sentence to lengthy prison terms four defendants convicted in a drugs operation that found almost 400 kilograms of cocaine on the premises of the Russian Embassy in Argentina.

Lawyer Leonid Kozak, who is defending one of the defendants, Ishtimir Khudzhamov, told Current Time on December 16 that prosecutors asked the Dorogomilov district court to sentence his client to 15 years in prison.

Kozak added that the prosecution wants the three other defendants in the case to be handed prison terms of between 17 and 19 years.

Three days earlier, a jury convicted the alleged mastermind of the operation, Andrei Kovalchuk, along with Ali Abyanov, Vladimir Kalmykov, and Khudzhamov of buying and storing the drugs at the Russian Embassy's school in Buenos Aires with the intention of later selling the contraband in Europe.

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 officers with Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB).

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.

Officials 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.