Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova’s response to a media question on conducting a joint operation by Russian and Argentinean law enforcement agencies to intercept a drug shipment

Friday, 23 February 2018 12:29

Question: How would you comment on the recent media reports on a Russian-Argentinean operation to intercept a drug shipment allegedly organised with the involvement of a Russian diplomatic mission official in Buenos Aires? Could diplomatic channels have been used to transport drugs?

Maria Zakharova: Russian and Argentinean law enforcement agencies conducted a joint operation to intercept a large shipment of a narcotic substance (cocaine) from this South American country to the European market. The operation resulted in the detention of suspects from both countries. Currently the investigation is underway and the suspects will stand trial.

The cargo in question was found ready for shipment 18 months ago at one of the annex buildings of the Russian Embassy in Buenos Aires that houses a school. As the investigation discovered, the cargo belonged to a former maintenance worker who had by that time completed his fixed term employment contract.

The information that the bags with suspicious contents had been discovered was passed on to Argentinean law enforcement authorities on the initiative of Russian Ambassador to Argentina Viktor Koronelli upon approval from Moscow. The joint operation was carried out, including in the building owned by the Russian Embassy, with full respect for its diplomatic status. It revealed that the bags contained a narcotic substance.

I believe there is no need to relate all the details of the operation, as this is the responsibility of the relevant agencies. I can only state that as a result of the operation, the shipment channel has been blocked.

We’d like to highlight the highly effective interaction between the Russian and Argentinean law enforcement agencies during the operation, including with Argentina’s Ministry of Security and Minister Patricia Bullrich.

This experience serves as further evidence of the close partnership that has developed between our countries in different areas, including law enforcement. It is important to mention in this regard that bilateral interstate agreements on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and on Transfer of Persons Sentenced to Imprisonment came into force on January 8, 2018, and in two weeks, on March 9, the Treaty on Extradition will come into effect. This creates an additional framework for joint efforts aimed at stopping unlawful activities that might follow if someone decided to take advantage of the favourable climate in relations between our countries.

As for the speculations in the media that the drug cargo may have been shipped through diplomatic canals, we’d like to note that the statement shows ignorance of the mechanism and procedure of sending diplomatic mail, whose content is certainly not determined by the mission’s maintenance staff.  

We are surprised at the way the issue has been covered by the “experts”, some of whom went so far as to say that the incident “cast a shadow” over our diplomatic mission. The situation is just the opposite: the operation was a success due to the efficient actions of the Russian Ambassador and diplomatic staff.

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