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Russian man charged with smuggling nine kilos of cocaine into the Philippines (yes, where Duterte is) wins acquittal after three years in jail

Source: Meduza

A Philippine court has acquitted Russian citizen Yuriy Kirdyushkin, who faced charges of carrying almost 10 kilograms of contraband cocaine into the country. Kirdyushkin’s attorney, Alexander Boikov, told the independent Russian television station Dozhd about the ruling. Kirdyushkin’s father, Sergey Kirdyushkin, confirmed that his son had been acquitted.

Yuriy Kirdyushkin was detained in October of 2016, the Russian embassy in the Philippines told the newspaper Izvestia. Upon landing in Manila, he was arrested in the airport along with two other passengers on his flight, both residents of Hong Kong. Philippine officials said that 9.9 kilograms of cocaine were found in Kirdyushkin’s luggage; according to the local Russian embassy, that amount was 8.5 kilograms. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly encouraged violence against suspected drug dealers in an ongoing drug war that has left thousands dead.

CNN Philippines reported that all three men denied the charges against them and said they had been carrying items in their luggage that belonged to their friends. Kirdyushkin later told Dozhd that he had been traveling through the Philippines at the time in order to deliver a package: A close friend, he said, had offered to fly him along “an exotic route” — from Peru to Thailand through Paraguay, Brazil, the United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, and Cambodia — if he would drop off a “medicinal substance” made from powdered San Pedro cactus flowers. Kirdyushkin’s friend promised him free airfare and $2,500 if he went through with the trip, according to a post on the online platform Les.Media. Les.Media allows individuals to post their own content, though the site is curated by experienced journalists; and Kirdyushkin managed to relay his version of what happened to a Les.Media user named Anton Reznichenko.

“All I could assume at that point was that [the substance I would be transporting] was semilegal,” Kirdyushkin later told Dozhd. During the course of his trip, he received orders via Skype. According to the Les.Media article, when Kirdyushkin arrived in Peru, he met with a woman carrying a baby. The woman gave him what appeared to be a pack of produce wrapped in paper from a grocery store and two bottles of cough syrup. She did not give him any powdered cactus flowers. Kirdyushkin has said he did not open the package and instead continued on to his next flight. In Manila, officials found that the package contained liquid and powder cocaine.

At that point, Kirdyushkin’s friend stopped answering his messages. Meanwhile, the Russian traveler was charged under three different Philippine drug statutes. The Russian embassy in the Philippines told Izvestia that Kirdyushkin could receive a sentence of life in prison.

In February of 2019, Izvestia published another report detailing what Kirdyushkin said were unsanitary conditions in the jail where he was held. He told the newspaper that people with tuberculosis lived together with the rest of the jail’s population and that prisoners suffered from overcrowding, violent clashes, and a lack of opportunities for exercise.

Kirdyushkin also regularly narrated his impressions of the Philippine jail on Facebook. He kept a telephone hidden in a bag of grain.

Dozhd did not provide any information about the reasoning behind Kirdyushkin’s acquittal. His attorney, Alexander Boikov, suggested that Philippine prosecutors may appeal the court’s decision.

Report by Olga Korelina

Translation by Hilah Kohen

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