IN THE LOOP
February 13, 2004
At the end of 2003, former Russian banker Alex Konanykhin was spending a little time in jail as a guest of Uncle Sam, having been nabbed by U.S. immigration officials as he tried to go from Buffalo to apply for political asylum in Canada. (That's right, going across the Peace Bridge in his BMW, leaving the country. )
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.
But in November, an immigration appeals panel, apparently deciding that Vladimir Putin's justice system was just hunky-dory, reversed the asylum ruling. Department of Homeland Security folks moved with stunning alacrity to send him back to Russia, where he's accused of stealing from his bank. He says not so.
Then a federal judge in New York blocked the deportation, and the immigration appeals panel reversed its earlier ruling and sent the matter back to the first immigration judge.
So imagine Konanykhin's surprise when he got a breathless fax from the National Republican Congressional Committee saying 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 for the NRCC Spring Gala," the Reynolds invite said.
"We will use that letter as evidence Konanykhin qualifies for permanent resident status as a businessman of extraordinary ability," his lawyer, Michael Maggio, said yesterday. "Many thanks to the Republican leadership. I'm so grateful, a donation does seem appropriate."