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"My fear of the mobski"

The London Express

December 10, 1996

By Emily Compston

Millionaire Russian entrepreneur Alexandre Konanykhine is to fight deportation from the U.S., claiming he would be murdered by Moscow mobsters if forced to return to his homeland.

Konanykhine is a vocal campaigner against corruption and organised crime in Russia.

But he is accused by Russian authorities of embezzling more than £5 million from the Moscow bank he founded.

Konanykhine, 30, is now in an American prison facing deportation to Russia because of a "goodwill" gesture by the FBI to the KGB.

Yesterday he said from his prison cell: "If the judge orders my deportation it will mean immediate death for me.

"I have documents to prove that the Russian mafia had a couple of contracts out on my life."

His lawyer Michael Maggio added: "Mr. Konanykhine is being used as a neo-political football in an effort by the U.S. to portray Russian society as something it is not - a state where a rule of law prevails.

"In fact, it is a society that is astonishingly corrupt, where organised crime elements play a dominating role.

"I believe he has been targeted by the Russian government because he has been so vocal against the control of organised crime."

The entrepreneur fled to the U.S. in 1992 after he claimed that KGB agents he hired to protect him from Moscow mobsters demanded more money.

Only months ago Konanykhine was living an opulent lifestyle with his wife Elena in a £190.000 apartment in the exclusive Watergate complex in Washington DC. Neighbours included Republican leader Bob Dole.

He was also a sough-after dinner guest among Washington's social elite. From an office near the White House he ran the U.S. bureau of Greatis USA, which is one of the largest advertising agencies in Russia.

Even before Konanykhine's arrival in the U.S. he had established himself as an entrepreneur. By the age of 24 he had amassed a personal fortune of £64.5 million and founded the now defunct All-Russian Exchange Bank - the first private bank to receive a licence from the Russian authorities. At one time, his banking, real estate and commodity empire was said to be worth nearly £200 million.

He even accompanied Russian President Boris Yeltsin on his first official visit to the U.S. in 1992.

But now he is locked up in a cramped cell at a federal prison in Northern Virginia and is fighting an immigration charge of lying on an application to extend his work visa.

Konanykhine claims it is his personal campaign against KGB-organised crime that ensures he faces certain death if returned to Russia.

He added yesterday: "It is not a good feeling knowing I can be sent to death in Russia at any time." His court appeal against the deportation decision will be heard next year.

At an immigration hearing in July an FBI agent testified that Russian criminals in New York had taken out a contract on Konanykhine. But federal prosecutors said allowing Konanykhine to stay would be a "travesty of justice". Prosecutor Eloise Rosas alleged he was a tax evader, draft dodger and a "deadbeat dad" in Russia. Konanykhine denies he has any children.

Court papers say Russian authorities asked for U.S. help to trap Konanykhine in 1994.

A high-profile Russian prosecutor, Alexandre Volevodz, repeated the request after the FBI opened an office at the U.S. embassy in Moscow that year.

In an effort to build good relations with the Russian authorities, the FBI suggested they look into possible immigration violations by him, and in July this year he was arrested.

But Konanykhine claims he was targeted because of his anti-corruption campaign, which he took up with Boris Yeltsin, following his escape to the U.S.

Volevodz personally replied to his correspondence with the president and asked for more details about alleged organised crime. But authorities later claimed Konanykhine had been embezzling cash from his bank.

Konanykhine's lawyers argue he transferred money to private accounts to stop it being stolen.

He claimed: "We have documents that show correspondence between the U.S. legal attache in Russian and the director of the FBI.

"It shows the Russian government threatened the U.S. with termination of legal assistance unless I was deported."

Konanykhine
Alleged
Authorities
Bank
Deportation
Embezzling
Entrepreneur
Fbi
Government
Immigration
Moscow Mobsters
President
Prison
Prosecutor
Russian Immigrant
Russian Banker
The Mobski
Corruption

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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.
CNN:
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.
The Baltimore Sun:
Business whiz kid.
WJLA TV / ABC:
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.