US court extends appeal period for Russian pilot convicted for drug smuggling
NEW YORK, November 1 - RAPSI. A New York-based federal appellate court has extended Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko's appeals period until November 15, his attorney Alexei Tarasov told RIA Novosti. Yaroshenko is currently serving a 20-year term for collusion in smuggling an enormous quantity of drugs to the United States.
November 30 was the initial deadline set, but the defense requested to have it extended until December 31 due to the attorney's intention to examine the records of conversations which were the basis of the charges against Yaroshenko. He also wanted enough time to read through all the material thoroughly.
Tarasov took on the case after Yaroshenko was sentenced. The records of the pilot's conversations with DEA agents posing as drug dealers and their oral testimony served as the smoking gun which led to the jury's guilty verdict. Yaroshenko's former lawyers did not examine the audio records.
Yaroshenko has denied the charges, saying he did not have a sufficient command of English and had no intention to participate in the deal, but wanted only to buy inexpensive cargo planes.
Yaroshenko was sentenced to 20 years in prison for colluding to smuggle a cocaine shipment to the United States. Yaroshenko was arrested in Liberia, together with Nigerian Chigbo Peter Umeh, in an undercover operation in May 2010. Shortly after, both were flown to the United States, where Umeh was sentenced to 30 years and Yaroshenko to 20 years in prison for attempted drugs trafficking.
Two other suspects in the case were acquitted by the jury.
The prosecution maintains that Yaroshenko accepted a proposition from U.S. agents to carry four tons of cocaine from South America to Africa and then to the United States. He arrived in Liberia in May 2010 to discuss his fee with his Colombian partners. He was offered $4.5 million to take the cocaine from Venezuela to Liberia and an extra $1.8 million for taking the drugs to Nigeria and Ghana, from where a portion of the drugs was to be taken to the United States.
Yaroshenko is being held in a Federal Correctional Institution 72 miles from New York on the site of a former military base.
Russia is seeking Yaroshenko's extradition and has filed a request in this regard with the DOJ.