YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) announced on Thursday the arrest of five foreign nationals accused of using Armenian territory to try to smuggle large quantities of drugs from South America to Turkey.
The NSS claimed to have seized a total of over 10 kilograms of cocaine at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport in a special operation against what it called a “transnational” drug trafficking ring. It said the drugs were shipped to Armenia on board commercial airliners with the ultimate aim of being illegally sold in Turkey.
According to the law-enforcement body, the operation began on January 27 with the arrest of two Peruvians who it said flew from Brazil to Armenia via the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with 2.7 kilograms of cocaine. It said NSS officers confiscated practically the same amount of the drug from an Argentinian man who arrived at Zvartnots from Abu Dhabi on Monday.
Two other alleged drug traffickers, ethnic Arab citizens of Bulgaria, were caught at Armenia’s main international airport on Thursday moments before boarding a Yerevan-Istanbul flight. The NSS said they hid 4.8 kilograms of cocaine smuggled from South America in their suitcases.
The security agency, which is the former Armenian branch of the Soviet KGB, gave no further details of the reported drug bust. It did not specify whether the arrested men have confessed to drug trafficking.
The arrests were announced less than a month after an Armenian court convicted a Turkish man of smuggling 850 kilograms of heroin into Armenia from Iran and sentenced him to 19 years in prison. The court also gave a 17-year prison sentence to the Georgian driver of a heavy truck in which Armenian customs officers deployed on the Iranian border found the Class A drug in January 2014. Both arrested men pleaded not guilty to the accusations.