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  • International Entrepreneur
    Created the largest bank in Russia by age of 25 before defecting to the United States in 1992 and starting from scratch.

"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."

Moscow Mobsters
Russian Immigrant
Russian Banker
The Mobski

More News...

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.
The Sun:
Alex Konanykhin fled Russia in 1992 and won asylum in the US after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The entrepreneur had set up 100 different companies in Russia and had an estimated net worth of $300million by the time he was 25. He is regarded as one of the first Russian millionaires after the fall of the Iron Curtain. One of the newly open country's leading lights, he even met with US President George HW Bush in 1991 on a joint visit with Russian leader Boris Yeltsin. However, he was then kidnapped in 1992 while visiting Budapest and all of his business assets were seized in Russia. … Being hunted by the Russian state, Konanykhin won asylum in the US in 1997 and set up a new life - but the shadow of the Kremlin continued to loom over him.He went on to rebuild a business empire and set up multimillion dollar firms such as TransparentBusiness in the US.
The Deal:
... a New York-based software startup called TransparentBusiness Inc. has drawn backing from Fortune 500 executives through a relatively new type of securities offering called 506(c) as part of an effort to raise $10 million this year ... Alex Konanykhin, CEO of TransparentBusiness, said he decided to reach out directly to accredited investors by purchasing ads in financial publications. One particularly bold ad includes the figure, 90,000%, with a question mark next to it. Konanykhin said the ad speaks to the large market opportunity for his company's software, which helps governments eliminate fraud by verifying billable hours charged by outside contractors. ... One of the investors, Ken Arredondo, told The Deal he invested in TransparentBusiness and agreed to serve on its board of directors because of the company's strong management team and the huge market opportunity to increase transparency of outsourced contracts worldwide. He believes in the company's product and said it's unique. "It's a Saas-based, easy-to-use tool," he said. "There are a lot of technology players out there that are a lot bigger, but none of them have what they have. There will be competition, but they have the product now. They have first-mover advantage."
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.
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.