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US, Russia Uncover Cocaine Trade Scheme Allegedly Involving High-Profile Russian Impresario

Viktor Ivanov, head of the Russian anti-narcotics agency, foreground, during a news conference in Moscow. (AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

MOSCOW (CBS/AP) Russia and the United States have uncovered a cocaine trade scheme involving a high-profile Russian impresario eager to set up business in Moscow's expensive night clubs, Russia's top drug control officer said Monday.

Russians sprang into action after U.S. officials tipped them off about a 30-year-old Moscow man looking to buy cocaine wholesale in the United States, Viktor Ivanov, head of the Russian anti-narcotics agency, told reporters.

Russian officials arrested the man and three alleged accomplices Thursday when they allegedly received a 10 kilogram cocaine shipment in St. Petersburg.

Ivanov refused to identify the buyer, citing the ongoing investigation, but said the man organized concerts of Russian and foreign music stars and was looking to use his network of contacts to set up a drug trade business catering to high-profile Moscow clients.

The impresario allegedly worked with three accomplices, including a former police officer and his wife.

The man allegedly planned to import 100 kilogram (220 pound) shipments of cocaine through St. Petersburg on a regular basis and sell the drugs in expensive Moscow night clubs frequented by him and his business contacts.

The operation to track down and catch the drug traders took nearly six months.

Cocaine imports in Russia have been increasing by 25 percent each year in the past three years, Ivanov said.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle praised the operation as "clear evidence of the new spirit of cooperation between Russia and the United States in the war on drugs."

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