Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for South America

Newsline: German Police Arrest Suspected Mastermind in Russian Embassy Cocaine Scandal

German police have arrested the suspected mastermind of a busted drug smuggling operation that reportedly ran hundreds of kilograms of cocaine from South America to Moscow on a Russian presidential plane. Six people were arrested after nearly 400 kilograms of cocaine were discovered at the Russian Embassy school grounds in Buenos Aires, authorities said last week. The man who allegedly supplied the drugs, initially identified as “Mr. K” and later named as Andrei Kovalchuk, was reported to be in hiding in Germany after the story broke. “His wife called me and said that Kovalchuk was detained as part of the criminal case on narcotics,” Interfax cited Kovalchuk’s lawyer Vladimir Zherebenkov as saying Friday. “As expected, the police intend to go to court for his arrest,” he added. An unnamed Russian law enforcement official told the Rosbalt news agency on Monday that Kovulchuk had previously been employed as a staff member at the Russian Embassy in Berlin. Russia’s Foreign Ministry released a statement Tuesday denying that Kovalchuk was ever employed by Russia’s diplomatic missions in Germany and “in general never worked for the Foreign Ministry.” Before his arrest, Kovalchuk claimed that he had been set-up in a “well-organized provocation” by American authorities, saying that his Argentinian suitcases with coffee, cigars and alcohol had been replaced by cocaine.



Newsline: Russian Embassy in Germany says man featured in coke case was not staff member

Reports claiming that the suspected mastermind of a criminal scheme for shipping drugs from Argentina to Russia, Andrei Kovalchuk used to be a member of personnel at the Russian embassy in Germany are totally fictitious and contradict reality, Denis Mikerin, the embassy’s press attache wrote on Facebook. “I was really surprised when I came across a story published by Rosbalt Internet portal, which claimed on the background the ongoing flow of concoctions that the man suspected of organizing the criminal scheme, Andrei Kovalchuk, had been a member of the staff of the Russian embassy in Germany,” he wrote. “Quite naturally, the journalists drew far-fetched conclusions.” Mikerin promised the mission would verify the information in detail. “We can state with a hundred percent assuredness that, to the best of our knowledge, Kovalchuk never had a position on the staff of our embassy while the information circulated by Rosbalt simply stands at variance with reality,” he said. The Foreign Ministry said earlier the Russian and Argentine law enforcement agencies had held a joint operation to plug a channel for delivery of a large consignment of drugs (389 km of coke) to the European market and had detained the suspects, who were Argentine and Russian citizens.


Newsline: Russian Foreign Ministry says cocaine found at embassy in Argentina unrelated to diplomatic mail

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has rejected media reports that cocaine discovered in one of the facilities of Russia’s embassy in Argentina has any relation to diplomatic mail, Zakharova wrote on the Facebook page of the Russian Foreign Ministry on Saturday. Earlier, some media outlets said that cocaine had been found in several suitcases that were alleged diplomatic mail of the Russian embassy to Argentina. “The news circulated by the media that it was diplomatic mail are not true. A technical worker was dealing with these white but foul things,” Zakharova wrote. “However, diplomatic mail is readied by diplomats.” “The technical worker had neither a diplomatic passport not access to diplomatic mail,” she said. Earlier, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that law enforcement agencies of Russia and Argentina carried out a joint operation to cut off a channel smuggling a large batch of narcotic drugs (cocaine) to Europe. Suspects, Argentine as well as Russian nationals, have been detained.



Newsline: 400 kilos of cocaine found in Russian embassy in Argentina

Six people, including a former Russian diplomat and an Argentinian police officer, have been arrested following an investigation into cocaine smuggling through the Russian Embassy in Buenos Aires. The arrests were the result of a joint operation between Russia and Argentina which began in December 2016 when cocaine was discovered on the embassy’s grounds. “We have dismantled an international cocaine trafficking organization operating between Argentina, Russia and Germany,” Argentina’s Security Minister Patricia Bullrich told journalists on Thursday. Russia’s Ambassador to Argentina Viktor Koronelli in late 2016 alerted local authorities after finding 16 bags of drugs hidden in a school on the embassy’s grounds. Argentinian police seized the 389 kilograms of cocaine worth over $60 million and replaced it with bags of flour fitted with a tracking device, Reuters reports. The bags were then traced as they were shipped to Russia as diplomatic luggage in December last year. Two men who collected the bags in Russia have been arrested. Bullrich named a “Mr. K,” who “remains at large in Germany” as responsible for supplying the cocaine to the Russian Embassy. A former embassy official identified as Ali Abyanov, who reportedly helped plan the shipment, was detained at his apartment in Moscow on Thursday, media report.



Newsline: Venezuela reopens Miami consulate

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has ordered the reopening of the country’s consulate in Miami, home to a sizeable anti-government community, before presidential elections on April 22, reversing a move by his predecessor Hugo Chavez. Speaking at the country’s Supreme Court late Wednesday, Maduro said he had received a request from Miami’s Venezuelan community to open the consulate so they could vote in the hastily arranged election, announced last week. “I have given the instruction to the foreign minister to proceed immediately to open the Miami consulate so that all Venezuelans can enroll in the electoral registry,” Maduro said.



Newsline: Colombian embassy condemns Singapore bar named after drug lord

A bar named after Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar found itself in a tricky situation after the Embassy of Colombia in Singapore and the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) took issue with its theme. The embassy confirmed that it had sent an official note to Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to denounce the three-week-old nightspot named Escobar in China Square Central. The venue features themes related to the late Colombian, who led the Medellin drug cartel known for its cocaine trade. A CNB spokesperson said that the manner in which Pablo Escobar’s name and image are being used to promote the bar is highly objectionable and runs counter to Singapore’s zero-tolerance approach towards drugs and to the Government’s efforts in preventive drug education. While the embassy declined to disclose its official note to the bar, a report on Yahoo Singapore’s site quoted the embassy saying in the note that the bar would confuse customers and justify criminal actions, and undermine the work that the successive governments have been endeavouring. The embassy also took issue with the way the bar had modelled itself after the Netflix drama series Narcos, and asked the Singapore Government to give due attention to its concern and take necessary actions to reverse this harmful image.



Newsline: Assange isn’t leaving the Ecuadorian embassy anytime soon

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange may stay holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London after a British judge ruled Tuesday not to drop charges against him — but the hacktivist still maintains hope of walking free. Assange, 46, has hidden out in the embassy for the last five years, avoiding extradition to Sweden on rape charges, as well as a bail-violation rap in the UK. Sweden dropped the rape case against him, but the Brits still want to take Assange to court for breaching the conditions of his bail. His lawyer said the bail case should be dropped now that Sweden doesn’t want to charge Assange.