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Police bust cocaine ring at Russian Embassy in Argentina

By
Ray Downs
Argentine Security Minister Patricia Bullrich speaks during a press conference in Buenos Aires on February 22 after a policeman was arrested for trafficking 385 kilos of cocaine between Buenos Aires and Moscow. Photo by David Fernández/EPA-EFE
Argentine Security Minister Patricia Bullrich speaks during a press conference in Buenos Aires on February 22 after a policeman was arrested for trafficking 385 kilos of cocaine between Buenos Aires and Moscow. Photo by David Fernández/EPA-EFE

Feb. 23 (UPI) -- An international drug trafficking ring operating out of the Russian Embassy in Buenos Aires was dismantled and several arrests made, Argentine police announced on Thursday.

Argentine Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said the arrests mark the end of a 14-month investigation that began in December 2016 when Russian Embassy officials found 850 pounds of cocaine stashed in 16 pieces of luggage and alerted Argentine police. The police then switched the cocaine with flour, inserted a tracking device and waited until the bags were moved.

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The suspected traffickers attempted to move the bags several times, but weren't able to do so until December 2017, The New York Times reported. At that time, the bags were put on a plane to Moscow. Three Argentine customs officials traveled with the bags to monitor them.

When the bags arrived at the Moscow airport, two Russian men there to pick them up were arrested.

Two dual citizens of Russia and Argentina -- Ivan Blizniouk and Alexander Chikalo -- were also arrested, according to Argentine newspaper, Clarín. Blizniouk is a Buens Aires police officer accused of facilitating the shipment to get through customs. Chikalo is suspected of handling the logistics.

Ali Abyanov, a former Russian embassy official in Buenos Aires, was arrested in Moscow on Thursday. He is suspected of being the contact person at the embassy for the cocaine shipment, which came from a person police only named as "Mr. K."

Mr. K remains at large and an international warrant was put out for his arrest.

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