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.