Swap Deal: Russian Pilot Yaroshenko Returns Home

The DEA's Most Excellent Adventures in Africa took a huge hit this week. On April 25, 2022, President Joe Biden commuted the 20 year sentence of Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko to time served so that he would be eligible for immediate release -- and transfer home to Russia, in a prisoner exchange in which an American being held in Russia would fly back to the U.S. The official commutation order for Yaroshenko is here.

The swap occurred in Turkey. Rossiya 1, Russia's main national news channel, showed video of a joyous Yaroshenko being embraced by his wife and his daughter, who was jumping up and down on the tarmac at the airport in Moscow.

I've been writing about Yaroshenko and the DEA manufactured case against him and others since 2010. Here's my account of his trial with a summary of the underlying FBI sting in which cocaine would be flown from South America to Africa and then to Europe. [More...]

To get jurisdiction in the U.S. they had an informant announce in a meeting to nobody in particular that he was going to send a portion of his share to the U.S. Of course, there were never any drugs going anywhere, it was all make-believe. But Yaroshenko got a 20 year sentence.

Here is an excellent long version of the FBI sting from the Guardian written by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee in 2015, which notes my criticism of the operation: [More...]

Some have questioned the policy, especially the lengths to which the DEA is going to in order to bring these cases under US jurisdiction. As Jeralyn Merritt, a criminal-defence lawyer in Colorado, puts it on her blog, TalkLeft: “Considering unless the DEA demands otherwise, the (illusory) drugs are going from South America to Africa to Europe, why is it even their business to intervene? Or to steer non-US criminal activity into the US?”

He wasn't extradited -- he was kidnapped in Liberia and turned over to the F.B.I. who flew him to New York. While in the custody of the Liberian police, he alleges he was tortured.

Yaroshenko's wife Victoria worked tirelessly all these years to free him. Russia proposed a prisoner swap with him in 2019. I don't know why it didn't happen then.

Here is how Tass, the official Russian news agency describes its efforts to get Yuri back to Russia. And now back home in Russia, here is how Konstantin Yaroshenko describes his capture and torture from the time of his kidnapping until being sent to New York:

“I was kidnapped by the US authorities, their intelligence, the DEA, and Liberia’s NSA on May 28, 2010 from a hotel and subsequently transferred to the NSA’s headquarters,” Yaroshenko said.

“There was a torture room where I was tortured for two-and-a-half days. It was inhuman torture, physical and psychological, with enormous pressure. At some point, I didn’t even want to live, to come to my senses, when I lost consciousness, I didn’t want to return back into this world,” he went on, adding that the agents who tortured him were very good at their ‘job.’

It wasn't the first time the DEA went on a most excellent African Adventure. Ace investigative reporter Ginger Thompson wrote this fascinating report for Pro Publica and the New Yorker about the DEA's attempt to cast that African adventure as a Narco-Terror catch. Unfortunately, it probably won't be the last.

I don't know anything about the American who was exchanged in the swap for Yaroshenko. This post isn't about him. It's about Konstantin Yaroshenko and the wasteful, unnecessary expenditure of our tax money to fund the DEA's hardly excellent African adventures, and then to house the unlucky ones who fall for its bait in U.S. prisons for decades, at a cost of more than $3k a month per inmate (according to U.S. probation figures in every presentence report), even though their crimes did not involve the U.S. and in fact no drugs ever went anywhere.

A few times a year since Yuri was sentenced, I have checked the media, the BOP inmate locator site and his case docket on PACER to see if he made it back home. The answer was always no. At least last week, although he has lost the 10 years of his life spent in U.S. prisons, Konstantin Yaroshenko made it back home after all.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Thank you, J (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by Peter G on Mon May 02, 2022 at 06:28:46 PM EST
    for this report. Not a word about anything of the sort in any of the standard, so-called unbiased, media coverage.

    Free Brittney Griner! (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by john horse on Mon May 16, 2022 at 06:05:39 PM EST