Banged Up Abroad

A friend, who earns too much to be seeking a coveted research assistant spot at this organ, sends me this story:

A 52-year-old American man is facing up to 20 years in a Russian penal colony after placing an online order for a cleaning product that contains a chemical banned by Moscow.

Gaylen Grandstaff, a former fireman from Topeka, Kansas, was arrested in July last year by customs agents who raided the Moscow flat where he lives with his Russian wife, Anna. He has had bail applications rejected, most recently this week, and has been held in brutal detention facilities. His trial for drug smuggling began in August and is expected to last until next summer.

The rest is behind the paywall, so let’s go here instead:

In the evening of July 19, 2017, Grandstaff and his wife Anna were at home in the north of Moscow, when a courier from the EMS service brought them a parcel from an online store. In June, a man ordered peptides there for cell regeneration and a metal cleaner.

Instead of the order in the box, the couple found two bottles of mineral water “Senezhskaya” and the magazine “Customs”. Later it turned out that the courier was not real – they were a disguised customs officer who participated in the “controlled delivery” operation.

A few minutes later eight people came to the Grandstaff: customs officers, several witnesses, an interpreter and a lawyer. After midnight, the investigator appeared with a decision to initiate criminal proceedings.

Grandstaff was accused of smuggling narcotic drugs on a large scale (part 3 of Article 229.1 of the Criminal Code). In the cleaning agent purchased through the Internet, gamma-butyrolactone was added to the list of drugs banned on the territory of Russia. It can be used as a psychotropic substance.

My initial reaction is that this chap has upset someone important, who has found a way to clobber him. It could also be the Russians want an American in jail to use as a bargaining chip with Trump, but this individual doesn’t really fit that profile and the story is hardly making the rounds in the US, or indeed anywhere (BBC Russia covered the story here but they didn’t run it in English.) Or maybe it’s exactly as reported?

It may also be tempting to use this story to highlight the callousness of the Russian judicial system, but frankly if there is one country whose authorities positively delight in jailing people for decades because of minor infractions of bizarre laws which run into thousands of pages governing what you can take where and how, it’s the United States. Probably the most comforting thing Mr Grandstaff has right now is the fact he’s dealing with Russian prosecutors and not the US Department of Justice. Some comfort.


7 thoughts on “Banged Up Abroad

  1. a man ordered peptides there for cell regeneration

    looks as though he got the wrong sort.

  2. Weird story. Not sure what to make of it. He was definitely doing uncommon stuff. Russians can get quite flustered when you’re doing something outside the box. However, dinking around the edges of rules related to chemical substances in a foreign country, especially a paranoid one, is not always advisable. I don’t automatically leap to the defense of compatriots, especially for stupid ones. I just don’t know what the case is here.

    My American friend, Kendrick White, was a victim of anti-American hysteria a couple years ago. (Look him up). I just corresponded with him and he said the hysteria has pretty much died down. My take is that this is a local matter and the authorities just don’t know what to do with the guy. By default, their brand of justice falls to overkill and inflexibility

    Touché on the American justice system.

  3. :. . . one country whose authorities positively delight in jailing people for decades because of minor infractions of bizarre laws which run into thousands of pages governing what you can take where and how, it’s the United States.”

    U S A! U S A!

    We’re number 1 baby!

  4. Remember, remember the 5th of November

    Who’s on the bonfire this 5th of November

    Who will it be?

    Will it be Me?

    Or will it be May?

    (C)Pcar & Kleinefeldmaus 2018

  5. I don’t think the Russians have done much out of the ordinary here.

    The ‘cleaning solution’ ordered is a well known psychoactive substance (or a single step away from it- gamma-butyrolactone), a bit like the ‘bath salts’ or ‘plant food’ sold on shady websites. I suspect that’s why it’s not got much traction outside local news.

    To put it another way, there is no way I’d do what he did, unless I was either stupid or determined to get arrested. Who the fuck orders cleaning products (traditionally low value, and weighty, therefore lots of postage cost) off the internet?

  6. John Square, agreed.

    Russia has plenty of dodgy chemicals so why go all the way to China to source it?

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