Staying with Russia, here’s one I missed from a few weeks ago: back in June, it was reported that yet another journalist had been shot:
[Andrei] Kalitin, 37, was shot in the shoulder Wednesday evening as he was leaving his home to meet with a colleague, according to local media reports. He has worked as a special correspondent for the investigative journalism program “Spetsrassledovaniye” (Special Investigation) on Russia’s national television Channel One since 2006.
…For the past four months, Kalitin had been working on a book alleging mafia involvement in the aluminum business. The book, titled Mafia in Black, is to be released in August. Kalitin told Gazeta that the week before the attack, his phone would ring in the early morning but when he would pick it up, the caller on the other end would hang up, Gazeta reported.
Kalitin is a former reporter for “Sovershenno Sekretno” (Top Secret), an independent anti-corruption television program produced in the 1990s by legendary Russian journalist Artyom Borovik.
The main subject of Kalitin’s book is to be the Russian-Israeli businessman Michael Cherney. This is of interest to this blog because he finances the right-wing “Jerusalem Summit”, which brings together neo-conservatives like Daniel Pipes with Christian Zionists to strategize on the removal of Palestinians from the West Bank (See my recent blog entry here. His Michael Cherney Foundation also made headlines last year when it financed an “Intelligence Summit” which unveiled tape recordings of Saddam Hussein allegedly plotting an attack on the USA). Cherney responded to the suggestion that he might have had something to do with Kalitin’s injury in July:
Unfortunately, it is yet another helping from the bag of tricks that my ex-partner Oleg Deripaska has stooped to. After I filed a suit against him in England in November 2006, he told his multi-leveled security service to launch an international campaign to discredit me.
…As for Kalitin, it is a question whether there has been an assassination attempt at all. He requested me for an interview, and I sent him and his publisher OLMA, which contracted the book, an official letter. I told them that I knew who had actually commissioned the book and that I was not about to be a party to smearing my own name, and that I would sue OLMA for defamation. After that, someone allegedly shot Kalitin. Independent Moscow media reported that he had simply injured his arm, refused medical aid, and went to police to report that only a day later. No one had ever found the cartridge or the bullet. The whole assassination story was just a publicity trick to draw attention to this cheap publication in OLMA (though someone had spent a lot of money on it).
One wonders if the 1997 fate of journalist Vadim Birukov was also “a publicity trick”; according to this CNN report, he
…was found dead in his garage, his body badly beaten, his mouth taped. Birukov’s Business in Russia was the first independent magazine to expose organized crime’s role in aluminum in any detail, and he had attacked the Chernoys [i.e. Michael and his brother Lev] mercilessly. The culprits were never found.
Cherney has been dogged by criminal allegations for some time over his rise to prominence in the Russian “Aluminium Wars” (see below), and he is banned from entry into the USA and some other countries. However, investigations have all floundered, and Cherney insists that he has been smeared by his enemies.
Cherney has indeed been very unlucky in some of his associations. One of his close associates in Israel was the late Anton Malevsky, who had been accused of running a mafia group in Moscow. This allegation forms part of an upcoming trial in Germany; according to a recent report in Der Spiegel:
Alexander A. and two other defendants are charged with having laundered about €8 million for “Izmailovskaya,” a Russian Mafia organization, through real estate deals in Germany. Investigators are convinced that Alexander A., the good Christian, is one of the leaders of the Moscow Mafia syndicate, which they believe has earned a fortune with contract killings and protection rackets.
…A man named Malevsky is believed to have founded Izmailovskaya, named after Izmailovo, a Moscow neighborhood, in those early post-Soviet days. According to the prosecutors, the group specialized in extorting protection money and committing contract killings during the brutal struggles that followed the deregulation of the aluminum industry. They also believe that the organization worked for men who are now among Russia’s richest oligarchs and invest their billions in Western construction outfits or companies in the automotive industry. Their brutal henchmen at Izmailovskaya are believed to control assets worth about $800 million today.
According to the prosecutors, Izmailovskaya’s leader, Malevsky, moved part of this fortune to the British Virgin Islands, where it was invested in shady companies or deposited into the bank accounts of high-ranking Izmailovskaya members. “The system was designed to conceal the sources of the funds,” says Bettina Vetter, one of the Stuttgart prosecutors.
According to that CNN report again:
In March 1995 two private eyes in Israel were indicted for plotting to kill Michael Cherney and his pal Anton Malevsky. (The assassins were equipped with a silenced pistol and a $100,000 contract.)
Some years earlier, Malevsky had allegedly been sponsored for a US visa by Cherney’s Blonde Management Corp. The Corp’s manager was the nephew of Cherney’s old business partner Semyon Kislin, who has been linked by the FBI to a Russian godfather in prison in the USA, although he denies the claim. In 1998, Israel decided to deport Malevsky, as the country had done in the past with mafia figures (most famously Meyer Lansky, an incident depicted in fictionalised form in The Godfather Part II), and he died in a parachuting accident in 2001. In 2004, Cherney and fellow Israeli-Russian billionaire Arkady Gaydamak (who was blogged by me here) were pleased to see the forced resignation of Israeli police investigator Moshe Mizrahi, who had been accused of a “witch hunt” against innocent Russian businessmen in Israel on behalf of his friends.
Cherney was recently profiled in the London Observer, where he explained the feud with Deripaska:
Cherney emigrated to Israel, from where he has conducted his business since 1994. Meanwhile the ‘aluminium wars’ raged in Russia, a struggle from which Rusal is now emerging as the world’s number one aluminium producer. ‘In 2001, I sold my stake to the Deripaska group,’ he says. ‘I’m out of the aluminium business now, except for the money owed to me from this stock sale.’
…Cherney says ‘[Deripaska] panicked when he heard in 2001 that I was going to sell my stake in Rusal to MDM Bank for $1bn. He met me in London. So I sold the stake to him instead, and the contract guaranteed payment in three years. He met me in secret in Vienna in 2003 and I told him he had violated the terms. Then he stopped answering the phone.
The Financial Times, meanwhile, gives us Deripaska’s take:
Mr Deripaska denies he ever worked in partnership with Mr Cherney. Mr Cherney says he is merely seeking to enforce his rights. While the two disagree over their roles, their tale tells much of how Russian business has evolved from the early 1990s when, according to one insider, businessmen queued in hotel lobbies to win Mr Cherney’s blessing for their business deals.
…Mr Deripaska maintains that what happened in the 1990s in the Russian aluminium business cannot be compared with any other country. “We had different conditions. It was anarchy.” But he insists Mr Cherney had nothing to do with his business: “The role of [Michael] was very specific,” he says. “This person had no relation to my business.”
However, in 2003, both men were named in a legal action against Deripaska; American Lawyer noted that:
During the so-called “Aluminum Wars” of the 1990s, rival Russian oligarchs fought violently for control of that nation’s second-largest industry. The losers of the Aluminum Wars don’t trust Russian courts, so they have carried the fight to tribunals around the world. Their allegations read like a post-Cold War thriller. As the claimants tell the story, billionaire Oleg Deripaska and alleged mafia boss Mikhail Chernoi stripped exiled oligarch Mikhail Zhivilo of the Novokuznetsk aluminum plant by bribing and strong-arming officials to file false murder charges against him (hence his exile), and to make false claims that drove his company into bankruptcy. The claimants are companies that had signed contracts with the Novokuznetsk factory before Deripaska allegedly rigged its bankruptcy and bought it on the cheap. According to Deripaska, the claimants themselves are controlled by Zhivilo.
A 2000 Jamestown Foundation report adds:
The plaintiffs charge, among other things, that in 1995, at the height of a battle for control of the Krasnoyarsk Aluminium Factory, Chernoy ordered the murder of Felix Lvov. Lvov represented the interests of AIOC, the U.S. metals company and Trans World rival. Chernoy, the plaintiffs claim, used Anton Malevsky, reputedly a leader of the Izmailova organized crime group, to carry out the order. According to the suit, Chernoy and Deripaska also sought to wrest control over NkAZ away from MIKOM, a company run by Mikhail and Yuri Zhivilo. Soon after the Lvov murder, Deripaska warned that Mikhail Zhivilo would share Lvov’s fate if he refused to cooperate with Chernoy and Trans World. The suit also alleges that, in the fall of 1995, Mikhail Zhivilo was forced to meet with Chernoy in Tel Aviv to discuss “krysha” (“roof,” slang for protection payments) for the following year. Malevsky allegedly attended the meeting during which Zhivilo was warned that if he stopped making protection payments he would have to deal with Malevsky “and his partner Yaponchik”–an apparent reference to Vyacheslav Ivankov, the Russian mafia boss jailed in New York in 1996 on federal conspiracy and extortion charges. In March 1996, the suit alleges, an attack was carried out on Zhivilo, after which he received yet another warning from Chernoy. According to the complaint, Zhivilo ran into Chernoy by chance in 1998 at a soccer match in France, and Chernoy again brought up Malevsky to threaten Zhivilo into cooperating with Deripaska (Vedomosti, December 21).
Zhivilo is currently a fugitive in Europe; the case was eventually settled out-of-court (see here). In July, a Zhivilo associate was found guilty by a Russian court of plotting a political assassination.
Another former associate of Cherney and Deripaska has also made serious allegations, as was noted by the Hoover Digest in 2004:
Dzhalol Khaidarov, a former close associate of Mikhail Chernoy, a partner of Deripaska’s with close ties to organized crime, described, in an interview with Le Monde, how Russian Aluminum became so large: “You ask why Russian Aluminum gained one or another factory. They will say that the shares were purchased. But if you look, you’ll find that the former shareholder is in prison, became a ‘drug addict,’ or disappeared. When I worked with Mikhail Chernoy, the group gave bribes of 35 to 40 million dollars every year. It was always possible to buy a judge, a governor, or a law. In the early 1990s, they murdered. Now they prefer to file a case or put someone in prison. They can do anything.”
Deripaska is married to Boris Yeltsin’s granddaughter, and his activities appear to be tolerated by one particularly shady character – a certain Vladimir “Polonium” Putin.
Name variations: Ismajlovokaya, Izmailovskaya; Izmailovo Mafia; Izmaylovo Gang; Michael Cherney; Michael Chernoy; Michael Chornoy; Michael Chernoi; Michael Tcherny; Michael Chyorny; Mikhail Cherney; Mikhail Chernoy; Mikhail Chornoy; Mikhail Chernoi; Mikhail Tcherny; Mikhail Chyorny.
Filed under: Uncategorized