Patricia Bullrich, Argentina’s minister of security, announced Thursday that a 14-month investigation into drug trafficking between Argentina, Russia and Germany has culminated in six arrests, including a former Russian diplomatic worker.
More than 850 pounds of cocaine were seized at a school on embassy grounds in December of 2016 - a street value of at least $60 million - which led to an investigation by Argentine border guards, the Buenos Aires police and the Russian Interior Ministry.
The Russian ambassador to Argentina, Víktor Koronelli, and three members of Russia’s Federal Security Service alerted Ms. Bullrich on Dec. 13, 2016, to what they thought were 16 pieces of luggage filled with drugs.
Guards were then sent to investigate, and after confirming the contents as cocaine, the bags were taken to another location where the drugs were replaced with flour, fitted with tracking devices, and then returned to the school.
After several attempts by the traffickers to move the cargo out of the country, the shipment was made in December 2017 as diplomatic luggage in an official Russian plane, she said.
“The drugs never traveled to Russia — only the flour,” Ms. Bullrich said.
Three Argentine customs officials traveled to Russia to monitor the shipment, and two Russian men were arrested when they went to it pick up, she added.
One member of the trafficking ring remained unnamed, referred to as "Mr. K", and is alleged to have provided drugs to an embassy contact for shipping to Russia. He is currently in Germany, where there is a warrant for his arrest.
Mr. K’s contact at the embassy was Ali Abyanov, a former embassy official who was detained at his apartment in Moscow on Thursday, Ms. Bullrich said.
Mr. Abyanov, who has left his diplomatic post, helped plan the shipment with the aid of two Russian-Argentine citizens, she added. One of them was Iván Blizniouk, a Buenos Aires City police officer who provided the contacts to get the shipment through Argentine customs.