The CIA Was Behind a Massive Drug Trafficking Operation in Argentina, Russian Drug Smuggler Claims

A Russian man accused of trying to smuggle about 900 pounds of cocaine from Argentina to Russia said the CIA was behind the massive drug-trafficking operation and that he has been set up.

The suspect, Andrei Kovalchuk, is the man authorities accuse of being the mastermind behind the appearance of 16 suitcases filled with high-quality cocaine—worth over $60 million in Russia—in a storage area at the Russian Embassy in Buenos Aires. Argentina's security forces seized the suitcases in December 2016 after they received a tip from the Russian ambassador. Argentine security officials called the operation one of the most "complex and extravagant" drug operations the country has encountered.

Kovalchuk reportedly lives in Germany and has an international warrant out for his arrest. His lawyer claimed Kovalchuk abandoned the suitcases at the embassy filled with coffee, cigars and alcohol, not cocaine. The lawyer alleged that the appearance of the cocaine was a set-up by the CIA and Argentinian police to tarnish the name of the Russian embassy. Kovalchuk is prepared to travel to Russia to "prove his innocence and establish the truth," the lawyer declared.

However, the attorney has failed to provide any evidence that the CIA was involved in the drug smuggling operation.

Kovalchuk is believed to be a former Russian Foreign Ministry official. On February 23, a Russian businessman gave an interview to a Russian-language television channel in Germany and claimed that he had met Kovalchuk several years ago. He added that alleged drug smuggler claimed to be a colonel in the Russian security forces.

Five other men have been arrested in connection with the drug smuggling, two in Argentina and three in Russia. The colorful suitcases were filled with flour and shipped back to Russia, where the alleged smugglers were apprehended when trying to pick them up.

Ishtimir Khudzhamov, one of the men arrested in Russia, also claimed that he was framed and that the case is a "big provocation," but he did not say who he believed set him up.

Some, however, suspect that Russian government officials were at least aware of the drug smuggling operation. Some claim that it would be impossible for anyone to move massive suitcases into the embassy without the knowledge of security forces. Argentinean police published a photo of a plane used to ship the suitcases, then filled with flour, to Moscow. Meanwhile, a Russian flight-monitoring website identified the plane's tail number as belonging to a plane used by top government officials, according to reports. The website was taken down shortly after.