. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Women Languish in Prison on Drug Charges

A police investigation of two women, one British and one Dutch, arrested on charges of smuggling more than 9 kilograms of cocaine to Russia, has been indefinitely prolonged, an official has said.


"The investigation will not be completed as we expected on April 6," said Vladimir Sergeyev, who is heading the investigation for the Russian police. "There have been no new complications, and I cannot tell you more about the delay because it's a secret."


Briton Karen Henderson, 18, and her Dutch fellow passenger Suzanne Gerarda Vorstenbosch were arrested Feb. 6 at Sheremetyevo 2 airport. Each was found to have about 4.5 kilograms of cocaine in false-bottomed suitcases. They had arrived on a flight from Cuba and were planning to fly on to Warsaw.


The two women are now awaiting trial in Moscow's Butyrka prison. If convicted, they face between six and 15 years in a labor camp.


Sergeyev said that Vorstenbosch has admitted she knew about the cocaine in her suitcase and that she had been promised 5,000 Dutch guilders (about $2,900) per kilogram, a trifling amount compared to the drug's Moscow street value, which is about $200 per gram.


Henderson insists that she knew nothing about the drugs in her suitcase, Sergeyev said.


Henderson's lawyer, Alla Zhivina, said her client is in a cell with about 70 other women, and frequently sleeps no more than three hours a night because the inmates have to use the cots in shifts.


She said Henderson has already learned some Russian, but, apart from exhaustion, the lack of communication with her fellow inmates is among her greatest complaints.


"Otherwise, she tries to be very tough and not break the strict rules that have been set by the other women," Zhivina said. "There's a limited number of objects such as toothbrushes, and there's a line for them, and its very important not to break that line. It's the same with monthly packages. If you don't share them, they can beat you up. But apart from the language barrier, she's no worse off than the Russian inmates."


"Karen's harder, she has a much tougher character than Suzanne," Sergeyev said. "I think the Dutch girl is suffering a lot."


Zhivina said she hoped to transfer Henderson to Lefortovo, which she said was "more comfortable, if such a word can be used to describe a prison." However, she said she was pessimistic about her chances of success, since Lefortovo is reserved for people under investigation by the Federal Security Service and the Prosecutor General's Office.