The CIA smuggled 900 pounds of cocaine out of Argentina in one of the largest drug-trafficking operations security officials have ever encountered, a court was told this week.
According to Russian national Andrei Kovalchuk, the CIA framed him after he was caught transporting 15 suitcases filled with high-quality cocaine – worth over $60 million in Russia – at the Russian Embassy in Buenos Aires.
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Argentina’s security forces seized the suitcases in December 2016 after getting a tip-off from the Russian ambassador.
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Kovalchuk reportedly lives in Germany and has an international warrant out for his arrest. His lawyer claimed Kovalchuk abandoned the suitcases at the embassy filled with coffee, cigars and alcohol, not cocaine. The lawyer alleged that the appearance of the cocaine was a set-up by the CIA and Argentinian police to tarnish the name of the Russian embassy. Kovalchuk is prepared to travel to Russia to “prove his innocence and establish the truth,” the lawyer declared.
However, the attorney has failed to provide any evidence that the CIA was involved in the drug smuggling operation.
Kovalchuk is believed to be a former Russian Foreign Ministry official. On February 23, a Russian businessman gave an interview to a Russian-language television channel in Germany and claimed that he had met Kovalchuk several years ago. He added that alleged drug smuggler claimed to be a colonel in the Russian security forces.
Five other men have been arrested in connection with the drug smuggling, two in Argentina and three in Russia. The colorful suitcases were filled with flour and shipped back to Russia, where the alleged smugglers were apprehended when trying to pick them up.
Ishtimir Khudzhamov, one of the men arrested in Russia, also claimed that he was framed and that the case is a “big provocation,” but he did not say who he believed set him up.
Some, however, suspect that Russian government officials were at least aware of the drug smuggling operation. Some claim that it would be impossible for anyone to move massive suitcases into the embassy without the knowledge of security forces. Argentinean police published a photo of a plane used to ship the suitcases, then filled with flour, to Moscow. Meanwhile, a Russian flight-monitoring website identified the plane’s tail number as belonging to a plane used by top government officials, according to reports. The website was taken down shortly after.