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"A DOT COM with cash flow: What'll They Think of Next?"


January 14, 2004

By Deborah Charles

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (Reuters) - A federal judge on Wednesday accused the U.S. government of having a special deal with Moscow to deport a former Russian banker and prevent him from exhausting an effort to seek asylum in the United States.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis rebuked the government in a hearing to discuss the deportation of Alexander Konanykhin, who has been seeking political asylum because he says he faces death if he returns to Russia to face embezzlement charges.

"I would hope that some executive branch policy involving some promise, some quid pro quo to the Russian police or executive who wants Mr. Konanykhin ... wouldn't deter our government from honoring ... the heart of an agreement to let him have his asylum claim adjudicated," Ellis said.

Konanykhin has business ties to Mikhail Khodorkovsky -- the billionaire former chief of YUKOS oil company who is in jail in Russia on fraud and tax evasion charges.

Khodorkovsky's arrest is widely viewed as orchestrated by the Kremlin to reign in the billionaire's political ambitions.

Konanykhin, who is wanted in Russia for allegedly embezzling millions of dollars from his former bank, fled Russia in late 1992 and came to the United States. The United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia.

After a series of legal battles over his status in the United States, Konanykhin was granted asylum in 1999 by an Immigration Court judge who said Konanykhin had demonstrated a "well-founded fear of persecution" if he returned to Russia.

The government appealed and a Justice Department Board of Immigration Appeals overturned the court's decision in November 2003. It ruled that Konanykhin faced no risk of political persecution if he were sent back to Russia.

Konanykhin appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, where it is pending.

While waiting for the appeals court, Konanykhin and his wife tried to go to Canada on Dec. 18 to seek asylum, but were stopped at the border by U.S. officials who arrested him and prepared to deport him. Ellis stayed the deportation just as Konanykhin was about to board a flight to Moscow.

Konanykhin says he cannot be deported under terms of a 1997 deal with immigration authorities which lets him stay in the United States pending final outcome of his asylum request.

Federal prosecutors said Konanykhin had violated the terms of the agreement and therefore could be deported.

Konanykhin claims he abided by the rules.

In court papers, Konanykhin said Russians would torture and kill him and try to extract information about Khodorkovsky.

"Prior to my death, I am sure that I will be tortured in order to produce, from my own mouth, evidence which I know is not true, but which will lead to Mr. Khodorkovsky's illegal conviction and execution," he said in the affidavit.

Ellis will continue hearing arguments on Thursday.

Banker In Moscow
Former Russian Banker

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Media About Alex

Washington Post:
Konanykhin, one of the first Russian millionaires after the fall of the commies, left in 1992 and was granted asylum here in 1999. He's built a very successful Web advertising business in New York City. He had been chosen "New York Businessman of the Year." "As such, you will be honored and presented with your award," NRCC chairman Thomas M. Reynolds (R-N.Y.) said, at a "special ceremony" April 1. " President Bush and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are our special invited guests.
Alex Konanykhin controlled Russia's largest commercial bank in the 1990s
Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Konanykhin was a whiz-kid physics student who became a pioneering Russian capitalist in early 1990s, building a banking and investment empire valued at an estimated $300 million all by his mid-20s. He was a member of President Boris Yeltsin's inner circle.
World Economic Forum:
How transparency can help the global economy to grow. By Alex Konanykhin. Countries around the world spend an estimated $9.4 trillion a year on procurement – 15% of global GDP. Indeed, UN figures estimate that public procurement can account for 15-30% of GDP for many countries. However, according to the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 10-25% of the value of public contracts is lost to corruption.
The Baltimore Sun:
Business whiz kid.
Russian Bill Gates.
The Times:
By the time he was 25 he was one of the most important figures in post-Communist Russia. But in 1992, while on a business trip to Hungary, Alex Konanykhine was kidnapped.
The New York Times:
The Federal Bureau of Investigation notified Konanykhin that Russian organized crime figures had paid to have him killed.
CBS "60 Minutes":
Alex Konanykhin didn't only have KGB after him… He had the FBI, the Justice Department, even the CIA all on his case, as a favor to the Russians, part of a deal to allow the FBI to keep a bureau in Moscow.
Los Angeles Daily Journal:
Representing himself through much of the process, Konanykhin managed to convince an immigration judge of an alleged INS and KGB conspiracy and cover-up. Following the court's admonishment, the INS agreed to drop all charges and also pay $100,000..The judge also ordered an investigation of the Justice Department. In separate actions, Konanykhine subsequently won multimillion dollar libel judgments against two Russian newspapers. A $100 million lawsuit against the Justice Department is pending, alleging perjury, fraud, torture and witness tampering by U.S government officers on behalf of the Russian Mafia.
Profit Magazine:
Imagine you are a teenage physics genius who quickly amasses a $300 million empire of real estate and banking ventures, has dozens of cars, six hundred employees, several mansions and two hundred bodyguards—but you are nonetheless kidnapped by those you trusted, threatened with torture and death, and have your entire empire stolen from you one dark night in Budapest. You escape with your life by racing through Eastern-block countries and flying to New York on stashed-away passports—only to have the KGB and Russian Mafia hell-bent on your hide and the U.S. government jailing you and conspiring to serve you up into their clutches. All this before your 29th birthday. Sound like a Tom Clancy thriller? No. . . just a slice in the life of Alexander Konanykhine.