US Justice dotted all i's in the case of Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko. On September 7, 2011, federal judge Jed Rakoff sentenced the Russian pilot to 20 years in jail. Yaroshenko's US lawyer Stephen Zyss plans to appeal the verdict.
Yaroshenko, 53, was arrested in Liberia in the summer of 2010. The pilot was charged with smuggling drugs into the United States and Europe. US prosecutors claimed that Yaroshenko had been smuggling various types of drugs, presumably cocaine, in the United States for many years. The drugs would be loaded on board Yaroshenko's plane in Liberia or Venezuela. In the spring of 2010, Yaroshenko was supposed to bring four tons of cocaine from Venezuela to Liberia. Afterwards, the drugs were supposed to be delivered to the States. The Russian pilot was supposed to receive $6 million for this operation.
Russia's State Narcotics Control agency has recently checked the pilot and investigated all of his ties. Officials of the agency said that Yaroshenko was "clean". Neither the pilot, nor his friends and colleagues had any drug-related criminal records.
Konstantin Yaroshenko started the career of a private pilot abroad after his military squadron was cut as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The pilot bought an Antonov 32 military aircraft, on which he was working under foreign contracts. Many of his contracts were connected with the countries of tropical Africa.
Officials with the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that the USA had committed a rough violation of the international law. The ministry asked for explanations. US officials listened to Russia's protest and apologized...(surprise!) for not informing Russia promptly about the arrest of the Russian citizen in Liberia.
In America, Yaroshenko became known as "cocaine pilot". US police officers said that there was an impressive amount of cocaine found on board his plane during the pilot's arrest. Yaroshenko claims that he has never smuggled any drugs, nor has he violated US laws.
Several details about Yaroshenko's delivery to the USA were unveiled in April of 2011. The pilot's wife, Viktoria Yaroshenko, managed to see and talk to her husband in a US prison.
"He was beaten in Liberia during the arrest. He was then beaten on a plane, when he refused to sign documents when crossing the US border. He was taken to the bathroom and beaten there. He signed the papers after that, he could no longer stand that," Viktoria Yaroshenko's wife told RIA Novosti.
The details of the beating of the pilot were documented in the statement for the lawyer, which Yaroshenko subsequently made.
"The agents cuffed my hands and feet, which disturbed my blood circulation. The handcuffs and the shackles were linked with a short chain, which didn't let me draw myself straight. From the very first minutes of my capture, I tried to find out what was happening. I was telling them that I was a foreign citizen, I was asking for a call to the family or to the Russian embassy, but every time I was trying to say something, they would baton me in the stomach, on the head, on the genitals and on the feet. They were just telling me to shut up," Yaroshenko said.
According to the pilot, the agents threatened to kidnap his child and wife if he refused to sign the required statements. Yaroshenko signed the papers and was convoyed to prison.
Yaroshenko's wife Viktoria was shocked when she saw her husband in jail. Konstantin lost 25 kilos of his weight during imprisonment. He also caught a skin infection and developed an intestinal disease because of the food he had to eat in jail.
According to Viktoria, Yaroshenko was at first placed in one cell with a serial killer. Afterwards, the pilot was transferred to a solitary confinement. It is worthy of note that another Russian national, Viktor Bout, is being kept in the same prison where Yaroshenko is now staying.
The trial of Konstantin Yaroshenko started in April of this year at a court of Manhattan. It is interesting how the judges were selecting the jury. A candidate with a Russian name was rejected. During the hearings, Yaroshenko, who could not speak English well, had to use the services of the interpreter.
Russian diplomats and State Duma deputies tried to defend the Russian pilot. Stephen Zyss, the defendant's lawyer, was reading out the statements from Russian officials during the trial, but the judge did not show any reaction to them. He only thanked those who decided to defend Yaroshenko and said that those people were obviously unaware of the fact that Yaroshenko was smuggling drugs.
The jury found Yaroshenko guilty. His two associates were acquitted. The judge only said that someone in Russia simply could not understand the fact that Yaroshenko had committed a grave crime against the American nation.
The Russian citizen was sentenced to 20 years. It is hard to predict how the imprisonment will affect Yaroshenko's health. During his flights to Africa, he had caught tropical malaria three times. Prison is not the best place to cure the consequences of such dangerous diseases.