Smuggling cocaine on a Russian government jet


In December 2016 Argentinian officials were alerted to possible drug smuggling by Russian Embassy officials. At that time the anti-drupg operations team investigated and discovered a dozen suitcases in an Embassy annex; the bags held 389 kilograms of cocaine. Rather than just seize the drugs the Gendarmería Nacional‏ went a step further. In an effort dubbed “Operation Twelve Queens” the officers replaced cocaine with flour and the placed trackers on the bags. And then they waited. For a full year the bags did not move.

This December things changed.

Officials tracked the bags being moved to the airport and eventually loaded on a flight to Moscow.

The plane flew to Moscow and the bags were tracked. Eventually arrests were made.



Most of that story is relatively normal, at least as drug trafficking goes. Yes, there had to be some cooperation between Russian and Argentinian officials, but that is not necessarily uncommon. Where it starts to get weird is when you look at the aircraft registration in the photos from the Gendarmeria.

RA-96023 is an Ilyushin IL-96. Not many of those are in service and scant few are commercial aircraft. Only Cubana still operates the type for passengers. Indeed, RA-96023 is special beyond that. It belongs to the Russian Government.

Russian officials want nothing to do with the story. Alas, their protests come off as rather pathetic.



The Argentine police are not being stingy with video and photographic evidence.

Whether knowingly or not, a Russian government aircraft was used to smuggle some 850 pounds of cocaine from Buenos Aires to Moscow. And the Russian government is doing a pretty awful job of pretending it didn’t happen.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

13 Comments

    1. Yeah…it is snowing all across Europe today. That was actually a relatively timely statement, though still idiotic.

      1. Yeah, got a couple of friends trying to get back stateside from Europe even as we speak. The tabloids and others are calling the storm “the beast from the east.” Don’t think my friends will try coming home on a Russian government aircraft, however. So yes, the statement was timely but idiotic 🙂

    1. Yeah….I saw that reference. The guy claimed to be very “stressed” or something like that. I would be, too, knowing the way people seem to mysteriously commit suicide by shooting themselves twice in the head.

    1. The embassy annex bit is also reported by the Argentinians (and in my story). And cooperation with some Russian officials is strongly implied, though which ones is not clear.

      The amusing part to me remains the rather meek denial attempts. Just so very bad.

  1. The Russians just lie about every thing, It bad during the cold war but under Putin it is out of control the lies

  2. …yawn…the good stuff is so hard to come by these days…so a well-meaning embassy staffer had to blow the whistle on everyone’s else’s fun, after “poking” around in the annexe and “finding” the suitcases…don’t want to be that person, in fact, if I was that person, I would just disappear, change my name, my identity, hell, even change my gender…they gonna find you anyway… it all seems very dubious anyway, a huge cocaine haul on a flight from Colombia…what a waste of all the real stuff, it took days to process, from leaf to powder, hope they did’nt just chuck it all away…

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