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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Strange' Heroin Bust at Starlite Diner

Three plainclothes policemen walked into the Starlite Diner one evening this week for what they said was a routine document check as part of a city anti-terrorism operation.

They left after taking into custody the ousted director of a major vanadium mining complex, who they said was carrying heroin in his pockets.

Dzholol Khaidarov, who is fighting to be reinstated as head of the Urals-based Kachkanar Vanadium Mining Complex, or GOK, was arrested Tuesday evening on suspicion of heroin possession with intent to sell f in what even prosecutors call a "strange" case.

Khaidarov remained in jail Friday. His associate Damir Gareyev f the former GOK chairman of the board, who was removed along with Khaidarov f claimed the drugs were planted and accused Kachkanar's new managers of being behind the arrest.

The plainclothes officers from the Interior Ministry's anti-organized crime force entered the diner at Ploshchad Mayakovskaya with the stated purpose of checking customers' documents.

The search was part of a citywide operation to avert terrorist acts by Chechen rebel supporters, said Vladimir Panevezhsky of the Nikulino district prosecutor's office.

Despite the official explanation for the check, the officers examined IDs at only two tables, including one where Khaidarov was sitting with a colleague, a Starlite Diner manager said. Calls to the anti-organized crime force's press service went unanswered Friday.

After looking at Khaidarov's passport, the officers decided to check his pockets, where they found three tiny plastic bags containing a total of 6 grams of heroin, according to prosecutor Panevezhsky, whose office is overseeing the case.

Khaidarov was immediately arrested and taken to a Moscow detention facility. Under the law, such a quantity of heroin is enough to charge a suspect with intending to sell drugs in "large quantities," the prosecutor said.

The usual dose of heroin is a half-gram. The street price in Moscow for 1 gram of heroin is about $9.

Calls to Alexander Shipayev of the Nikulino-Troparevo district police force, who is investigating Khaidarov's case, went unanswered Friday.

Panevezhsky said formal charges have yet to be filed against Khaidarov, but predicted the businessman would remain in prison pending trial.

The prosecutor said it seemed "strange" for such a presumably wealthy businessman, the former head of a company generating $300 million in annual sales, to be suspected of a drug deal involving 6 grams of heroin.

"It is strange, but a fact is a fact. ? Heroin was found on him in the presence of witnesses," the prosecutor said.

The Starlite Diner manager, who asked not to be identified, said Tuesday was the first time in its five-year history that police officers had entered the diner to check customers' identification.

He said that about two years ago, police officers came to the diner to check IDs, but were asked by managers to remain outside and they examined documents at the diner's entrance. Then, the police said they were looking for pickpockets, the manager said.

Gareyev, the former board chairman, said the police officers planted the heroin in the pockets of his business partner, who he said has never used drugs.

Interviewed by Kommersant newspaper earlier this week, Gareyev said he believes Khaidarov's arrest was part of a campaign initiated by Kachkanar GOK's present managers, who are loyal to Sverdlovsk region Governor Eduard Rossel. These managers are trying to prevent Khaidarov and Gareyev from re-gaining control of the company, he said.

Reached by telephone, the company's representative in Moscow denied that Kachkanar GOK's current management had anything to do with Khaidarov's arrest.

In addition to the heroin case, the Nikulino-Troparevo district police are investigating another case against both Khaidarov and Gareyev.

The two are suspected of having used a false Kachkanar GOK stamp to validate documents upon their dismissal from the company in January, Gareyev said.

Also, prosecutors in the Sverdlovsk region are investigating two more criminal cases against Khaidarov: one on suspicion of embezzling 400 million rubles from Kachkanar GOK and another in which he is accused of attempted rape.

Khaidarov lost his post at Kachkanar GOK on Jan. 28 when the board of directors abruptly met and elected Andrei Kozitsyn as the new director. Hours later, Kozitsyn, accompanied by armed guards and police, swooped down on the plant and took over the premises. Khaidarov at the time was recovering from surgery at a Moscow hospital.

Khaidarov and his allies are challenging the management reshuffle in court.

Kachkanar GOK produces about 40 million metric tons of ore a year, generating some $300 million in sales.