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Accused Russian drug lord extradited from Netherlands

Jan. 14, 2014 at 12:03 AM   |   Comments

MOSCOW, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Two years after his arrest in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, a suspected international drug lord has been extradited to his native Russia, authorities said

The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs said Saturday Vladimir Krasavchikov has been brought to Moscow, accompanied by members of the Russian National Central Bureau of Interpol and the Federal Penitentiary Service, after a legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court of the Netherlands.

Known by the nickname "Pretty Boy," prosecutors say Krasavchikov was the mastermind behind an international criminal group that for 10 years smuggled cocaine from Ecuador into Russia using transatlantic ships, frequently hiding the drugs among shipments of bananas in one of the largest drug cases in Russian history.

The operation was busted in 2010 and nine alleged accomplices in the operation were slapped with prison terms in Russia, but Krasavchikov managed to escape and remained at large until 2012, when he was arrested and imprisoned in Amsterdam.

Prosecutors say that while loading fruit in Ecuadorian ports, Krasavchikov's partners infiltrated ships' crews and secretly hid packages of cocaine in the office or cargo spaces of the ship. Information about the cargo and where the packages were hidden were passed to Russian accomplices.

After the ships moored in the port of St. Petersburg and passed customs controls, smugglers disguised as port workers, employees or representatives of companies with false documents boarded the ships during their unloading and recovered the packages of cocaine, which were sold throughout the Russian Federation.

Interior ministry investigators, federal police, the Russian FSB and customs officials succeeded in cracking the drug ring in 2010, seizing more than 70 kilograms of drugs worth at least $85 million.

Krasavchikov, however, remained on the lam and was put on the international wanted list by Russian authorities as Interpol searched for him.

Dutch police arrested Krasavchikov in January 2012 in the Netherlands. Immediately thereafter, the Russia's prosecutor general prepared an extradition request and submitted it to the Amsterdam Court, which approved it July 13, 2012.

Krasavchikov's lawyers, however, appealed the decision to country's Supreme Court, which upheld the decision in November 2012, thus allowing extradition procedures to begin.

Russian law enforcement sources told the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper they haven't ruled out the possibility that the "banana scheme" was just one of several smuggling routes used by Krasavchikov. Investigators, they said, are following up leads on his alleged criminal connections in other Latin American countries, such as Venezuela, Bolivia and Mexico.

They also suspect his "product range" included more than just cocaine.

Around the same time of the 2010 bust, Russian anti-narcotics agents arrested another group of drug dealers who sold large batches of marijuana, amphetamines, heroin and cocaine in the Moscow and St. Petersburg areas.

Among those detained in that crackdown were three St. Petersburg athletes, including a kick boxer and two amateur league soccer players. 

At the same, two other members of organized crime groups from Moscow were arrested in the Novgorod region following a car chase and a shootout, the newspaper said.

Police said the pair tried to escape in a Nissan and shot and wounded two anti-drug commandos. Authorities found 11 kilograms of hashish, 50 kilograms of amphetamine as well as cocaine in that arrest. 

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