'Fake News': Russia Lashes Out in Embassy-Linked Cocaine Smuggling Controversy


The Russian government would like you to know that while around 800 pounds (some $60 million-worth) of cocaine was found at the Russian Embassy in Argentina and a former Russian official was arrested as part of an alleged "international cocaine trafficking organization," the drugs were most certainly not shipped on a Russian government plane, and the media should really stop suggesting otherwise.

In a pointed statement posted online, the Russian Foreign Ministry attempted to counter eight allegations it said were made in the global and Russian press -- "most of these publications can be clearly referred to as fake news" -- including the allegation that the conspiracy involved shipping the drugs via diplomatic pouch to avoid inspections.

"The information conveyed by these so-called insiders and couch conspirologists has nothing to do with reality," the statement says.

Russian and Argentinian officials reportedly agree on the outlines of the bizarre story: In December 2016, Russian embassy staff discovered suitcases containing the drugs in a school complex attached to the embassy. The Russian ambassador alerted Argentinian authorities, and the two nations concocted a joint sting operation. They switched the cocaine for flour and allowed the suitcases to continue on their way to their next stop: Moscow.

Once the faux-cocaine made its way to the Russian capital, the security services pounced, arresting a handful of alleged conspirators in each country. One suspect remains on the run, supposedly in Germany.

While touting the law enforcement operation, the Russian government has denied any connection to the smuggling itself and only describes the ex-official who was involved as a "former maintenance worker."

The controversy over the Russian government plane reportedly came from a video shown to reporters in Argentina of the aircraft used to ship the fake drugs -- which eagle-eyed observers said, based on the tail number, belonged to the Russian government.

Russian officials immediately denied that detail and the Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that "the shipment could not have been sent by diplomatic channels."

"Presenting the matter this way is indicative of the complete ignorance of the mechanism and procedure of sending diplomatic mail, the content of which is certainly not determined by the mission’s maintenance workers," the ministry said.

The Moscow Times reported that a Russian website that tracks aircraft, cited in initial news reports on the plane, has gone down. As of this report, the site carries a message warning that since any visitor can add information, "the quality of the information is low, it is easy to forge."

"The site was deleted on its own initiative," the message reads.

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