A Russian former banker, jailed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service since his arrest in Washington a year ago, was ordered released by a federal judge in Alexandria late Tuesday after a former INS prosecutor and a former Soviet KGB agent testified that they had serious doubts about the case against him.
WASHINGTON, August 7 (Itar-Tass) - U.S. law authorities released from custody a former president of the Russian Exchange Bank, Alexander Kononykhin, who is wanted in Russia on charges of stealing depositors' money. Kononykhin was charged in the U.S. with violation of the immigration law.
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.
WASHINGTON - It's a tale worthy of a spy novel, the judge said.
Millionaire Russian Alexandre Konanykhine sits in a U.S. federal prison in northern Virginia, fighting deportation because he fears the mafia will kill him if he goes home. His wife, Elena Gratcheva, lives with her cat and a few pieces of furniture in the couple's $300,000 Washington condo near the Potomac, visiting her husband once a week.
The U.S. government says Alexandre P. Konanykhine stole millions from a Moscow bank. But he says he is an honest businessman who ran afoul of Russian mobsters and corrupt government officials. And that sending him home means certain death. It's our call. Does he stay or go?
The dashing Russian immigrant couple lived like prosperous jet-setters, renting a co-op in the Watergate complex and driving his-and-hers BMWs. He had once been a successful banker in Moscow, and she had movie-star looks, according to federal immigration officials.
But two days ago, agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, acting in cooperation with visiting federal prosecutors from the Russian Federation, knocked on the co-op door and arrested the pair, who were wanted for allegedly embezzling $8 million from the Russian Exchange Bank in Moscow.
A week before Christmas, a green BMW rolled up to the Canadian border near Buffalo. As the driver, Alexandre Konanykhine, a Russian seeking political asylum in Canada, paid a bridge toll to leave the United States about a dozen armed federal agents surrounded his car and arrested him, Mr. Konanykhine said. American authorities then whisked him to a local airport and on to the Russian Embassy in Washington, Mr. Konanykhine said, where they unsuccessfully attempted to enforce a federal order that he be deported to Russia. Mr. Konanykhine, an ex-banker, now sits in an Arlington, Va., jail awaiting a federal court hearing next week.
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.