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Georgian Cocaine Smugglers May Face Life in Prison, Court Says

Members of a Georgian cocaine-smuggling ring that was broken up by police yesterday could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted, according to the Tbilisi Municipal Court.

As many as five suspects were arrested on suspicion of smuggling cocaine from South America through Georgia to Europe. Police discovered about 2 million euros buried in the western village of Geguti that police believe came from selling as much as 90 kilograms of cocaine.

Four of the suspects will be held in pre-trial detention for two months, the Tbilisi court said in a statement on its website today.

President Mikheil Saakashvili said the money seized from the smugglers will be used to buy computer equipment for preschools, according to his spokeswoman, Manana Manjgaladze.

Authorities suspect that Georgian criminals living abroad were involved in the cocaine ring. A group of detectives departed for Spain today to continue their investigation. Yesterday, Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said the drugs came from countries like Panama, Colombia and Peru.

“It’s shocking that narcotics from as far away as Colombia are moving through Georgia, but since Georgian criminals are involved the situation is clear,” said Alexander Rondeli, head of the Tbilisi-based Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies.

“All the government can do is secure the borders, especially since we get extensive assistance from the U.S. to do just that,” Rondeli said by telephone.

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