Sentenced to 20 years in prison for alleged drug trafficking, Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko says the case against him was concocted by the US after he declined to give evidence against Russian businessman and alleged arms deal Viktor Bout.
In an interview with Russia’s Izvestia newspaper, Yaroshenko stated that his case was directly tied to the case against Bout. The latter was arrested in Thailand and, after spending more than a year in a Thai prison, was extradited to the US for alleged arms smuggling to Latin American terrorists.
Bout’s trial started in New York on October 11.
According to Yaroshenko, in exchange for giving evidence against Bout on a regular basis, he was offered freedom and a US residence permit for himself, his wife Victoria and his 14-year-old daughter Katya. The last proposal, he claimed, was made just recently.
Yaroshenko believes the American authorities needed to untangle the delivery routes of Bout, who used to own an airfreight company delivering cargo to clients in Africa and Asia.
The Russian pilot declared that he never met Bout and that the only time he saw him was briefly in a Manhattan jail where both of them were held.
Yaroshenko said the pandemonium surrounding his case started because of his bad English.
While in the African country of Guinea in 2009, Yaroshenko said, he contacted the Irish owner of a local airline named James Scott in order to find a plane and a job. And according to Yaroshenko, quite improvidently he mentioned Viktor Bout’s name.
“My English is really bad,” Yaroshenko said. “[Scott] asked me whether I know this Russian. And I said ‘yes,’ meaning the guy’s story had been broadcast on TV and I had heard about him. That was it – they got onto me.”
Yaroshenko believes it was his poor English that enabled the American authorities to frame him while letting the informers earn good money from his arrest.
“Agents James Scott and Paddie McKee got $450,000 each, while agent Nabile Hadj, who has ‘exposed’ 12 ‘criminals’ recently, has earned over 1 million dollars,” Yaroshenko claimed.
As for the records proving his guilt, the pilot says, the evidence showing that he refused to deal with supposed drug traffickers simply never made it to court.
The records that were presented to court do not contain any mention of cocaine or drugs, he says.
“They simply proposed to me to fly special flights and diplomatic post from South America – but I refused the proposals made in Kiev, Ukraine, and in Liberia, though they simply attempted to pull ‘yeas’ out of me,” Yaroshenko said.
While in Liberia, he says, he started to suspect that he might have gotten entangled in questionable business, but it was too late.
On May 28, 2010, American special agents abducted Yaroshenko from the Royal Hotel in the Liberian capital Monrovia, and on May 30 forwarded him to the US without notifying the Russian authorities.
Yaroshenko remembers that the first time he was allowed to meet with the Russian consul was half a year later, in January 2011, but the diplomat acknowledged the situation to be beyond his mandate.
“The last chance I have lays with the Russian authorities and extradition to Russia,” concluded Yaroshenko.