The Kremlin is very good at denying their illegal international practices.
The latest accusation? That it was involved, in some way, in the smuggling of a large amount of cocaine out of Argentina.
Here are the facts: In December 2016, 390 kilos of cocaine – the “purest in the world” and valued at £44 million (R719 million) – was found in 16 suitcases in a school attached to the Russian embassy in Buenos Aires, reports Independent.
Fast forward 14 months to last week Thursday, and Argentina’s government confirmed that six suspected drug traffickers had been arrested, including a former Russian diplomatic official and an Argentine police officer, reports LEX18:
The investigation started in 2016, when the Russian ambassador to Argentina, Nikolai Patrushev, and three members of the Russian federal security service reported that they had suspicions about diplomatic luggage found at a school that is annexed to the embassy.
Local authorities confirmed that there were drugs inside the 16 pieces of luggage and replaced the cocaine with flour while it was still at the embassy.
Here’s the luggage. I wonder what about it triggered the suspicion?
What followed was a sting of dramatic proportions, even by South American standards:
“A tracking device was placed in the suitcase that was to be used to make the shipment to Russia, which was its destination,” Argentina’s Security Minister Patricia Bullrich told reporters.
“At 3 a.m. we had to send people from the border police to buy the 389 kilograms of flour to the central market (in Buenos Aires) because no one had 389 kilograms in a warehouse. The drugs never traveled to Russia. Only the flour traveled.”
Bullrich explained how three Argentine customs officials, as well as the diplomat Patrushev, travelled to Russia to monitor the delivery. It was Patrushev’s plane, after all.
After the information was confirmed by Bullrich, however, things started to get a little strange.
In her official statement, Bullrich stated that the luggage was sent as diplomatic baggage, and even posted a video [above] of the suitcases being loaded onto the Moscow-bound plane:
That video shows the plane’s registration number as 96023. According to Russianplanes.net, as eagle-eyed journalists noted, such a registration number corresponds to an Ilyushin-96 aircraft registered to the official Russian government airline.
The same website also suggested that the plane had been in Buenos Aires on 6 December 2017, before flying on to Moscow via Cape Verde.
By Tuesday morning something strange had happened to the Russianplanes.net website. Its content had been deleted, and in its place was a message from its owner, “Kiba,” announcing he had closed the site voluntarily. “It stressed me out,” he wrote. “I didn’t intend to frame anyone.”
Or was it the threat of your life that stressed you out?
What is less clear, however, is how exactly the drugs landed in the school, as well as the exact involvement of Russian officials before and after the heist.
However, following the official confirmation of the sting from Bullrich, the Russian government denied any involvement in the sting:
The Russian Security Council denied the plane of its head Patrushev had any role in the sting. “This plane is not used for diplomatic mail or cargo.”
A spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that none of its diplomats were implicated in the operation – only technical workers. Official Argentinian images showing a Russian government plane were, the spokesman suggested, no more than doctored fakes.
Blogger Maxim Mironov, whose children allegedly attend the embassy school in Buenos Aires, said that it was inconceivable that the embassy did not know what was going on in the school:
Writing a long post on the LiveJournal site, he noted that the school was guarded around the clock by security service agents.
“I find it hard to believe the official version that they suddenly discovered the bags of cocaine there,” he said.
So do I.
Still, not as bad as trying to undermine a country’s democracy.
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