Three in court for airport drugs bust

Two men from Russia and a Ukrainian woman have been charged after authorities allegedly found 5kg of MDMA – commonly known as ecstasy – in a suitcase at Christchurch International Airport.

It is understood the drugs have an estimated street value of about $2 million.

The arrests were made by the Customs Department yesterday and the three accused appeared in the Christchurch District Court today.

The charges specify that the powdered drug was found in a Samsonite suitcase.

Those charged are Vladimir Turovsky, a 32-year-old dive shop owner who is described as a Russian national, Vadim Shkolnitski, 35, a truck driver from Russia, and Ganna Manchenko, a 31-year-old Ukrainian woman employed as a cook.

They all face charges of importing the drug and possession of it for supply.

Steve Hembrow appeared as defence counsel for Manchenko, Bryan Green for Shkolnitski, and Nick Rout for Turovsky. Courtney Martyn appeared for the Customs Department.

All three defence lawyers said no bail applications would be made today, and asked Judge Tom Gilbert for remands without plea to April 28.

They indicated that applications might eventually be made for the release of the three on electronically monitored bail.

Mr Hembrow said the necessary documentation for a bail hearing would be filed in the meantime.

The three will not appear by video-link but will be brought in from the Christchurch prisons for their appearance on April 28, so that they can continue to work with a Russian interpreter. An interpreter was helping them at today’s appearance.

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