Russia, US uncover cocaine trade scheme involving high-profile Russian impresarioBy Nataliya Vasilyeva, AP
Monday, July 26, 2010
Russia, US uncover nascent cocaine trade scheme
MOSCOW — Russia and the United States have uncovered a cocaine trade scheme involving a high-profile Russian impresario eager to set up business in Moscow’s expensive night clubs, Russia’s top drugs control officer said Monday.
Russians sprang into action after U.S. officials tipped them off about a 30-year-old Moscow man looking to buy cocaine wholesale in the United States, Viktor Ivanov, head of the Russian anti-narcotics agency, told reporters.
The announcement comes less than a week after a Russian pilot was arrested in Liberia on suspicion of smuggling South American cocaine into the U.S. and extradited to New York, drawing Moscow’s condemnation for the arrest.
Russian officials arrested the man and his three accomplices Thursday when they allegedly received a 10 kilogram cocaine shipment in St. Petersburg.
Ivanov refused to identify the buyer, citing the ongoing investigation, but said the man organized concerts of Russian and foreign music stars and was looking to use his network of contacts to set up a drugs trade business catering for high-profile Moscow clients.
The impresario worked with three accomplices, including a former police officer and his wife.
The man allegedly planned to import 100 kilogram (220 pound) shipments of cocaine through St. Petersburg on a regular basis and sell the drugs in Moscow’s expensive night clubs that he and his business contacts frequented.
The operation to track down and catch the drug traders red-handed took nearly six months.
Cocaine imports in Russia have been increasing by 25 percent each year in the past three years, Ivanov said.
U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle praised the operation as “clear evidence of the new spirit of cooperation between Russia and the United States in the war on drugs”.
Russia’s drugs czar, meanwhile, urged the U.S. to step up efforts in battling drug production in Afghanistan.
“Heroin dominates the Russian drugs market, that’s why this is a vital issue for us,” Ivanov said. “The survival of Russian society is at stake.”
Cheap and abundant Afghan heroin has fueled a surge in addiction rates in Russia, and injection drug use has been a key factor in the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. There are about 2 million opium and heroin addicts and another 3 million people who use other drugs in Russia, according to official estimates. Each year, 30,000 die of drug overdoses.
Beyrle said he understood “the harm that the flow of Afghan heroin inflicts on Russian youths” but pressed for a more comprehensive approach such as tracking down traffickers and their financiers rather than just burning opium fields.
“The large-scale eradication of crops is not delivering the results we would like to see,” he said, adding that there was a significant increase last year in the amount of opium eradicated.
Afghanistan provides more than 90 percent of the heroin consumed in the world, and the bulk of it flows through ex-Soviet Central Asia and Russia.
Tags: Drug-related Crime, Eastern Europe, Europe, Moscow, North America, Russia, Saint Petersburg, United States