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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Defense Cites Irregularities As Briton Drug Trial Ends

The trial of 18-year-old Briton Karen Henderson for allegedly smuggling drugs drew to a close Wednesday with the defense team citing major irregularities in the prosecution's case against their client and the prosecution demanding a seven-year prison term.


Henderson, looking more nervous than on the first day of her trial, nevertheless seemed determined and composed as she listened to the lawyers' closing statements.


Henderson and Suzanne Vorstenbosch, 23, a Dutch citizen, were arrested in February at Sheremetyevo-2 airport after 9 kilos of cocaine were found in secret compartments in their suitcases.


Henderson claimed yesterday she had bought the cocaine-filled case from a man in the Havana airport; Vorstenbosch confessed to knowingly smuggling the drugs and was sentenced to a six-year term in July.


Henderson claimed Wednesday that she met Vorstenbosch -- who lives in the Dutch village of Zegveld where Henderson grew up -- for the first time in the departure lounge at Havana airport.


The keystone of the defense's case were a series of irregularities in the collection and analysis of the evidence, notably of the cocaine itself. The first customs report of Feb. 12 cites a total of 4,611 grams as being found in the lining of Henderson's case, said defense lawyer Karina Moskalenko. But by the time the cocaine was handed over in two boxes to investigators on Feb. 23, only 4,450 grams were entered in the record.


The final laboratory report mentioned only 3,900 grams of "narcotic substance," she said, and the senior narcotics analyst refused to sign the laboratory report because of broken seals on the sample and discrepancies in the stated weight.


Henderson and Vorstenbosch's cocaine-filled suitcases, valued at over $1.8 million, were left unattended for over two weeks in the Sheremetyevo customs lost luggage store, she added, casting further doubt on the integrity of the evidence.


"The Constitution of the Russian Federation says that a court can only find a defendant guilty if he is proved guilty according to the law," said Alla Zhivina, vice chairman of the Moscow College of Advocates, who headed Henderson's defense team. "It is clear that in this case there have been major violations of procedure. ... Formally, this evidence does not exist and is inadmissable."


Public prosecutor Violetta Skulina countered the defense's arguments by attacking Henderson's story as "fantasy," "insubstantial" and "unconvincing."


"There is no point in dwelling on the exact weight of the drugs she carried, since she claimed to have no drugs at all," said Skulina. "How much money she was going to make from [the deal] remains her secret, but there is no doubt that the story she told the court is a highly unlikely fantasy."


Skulina urged the judges to convict Henderson to seven years' imprisonment, with confiscation of property.


The court recessed until 11 a.m. Thursday, when a verdict and sentence will be pronounced.