American law enforcement authorities seem to agree with the accusations of Russian Attorney General Office to the former financier of President Boris Yeltsin.
The US authorities did not follow the footsteps of their British counterparts who rejected the Russia’s request for extradition of oligarch Boris Berezovsky and granted him political asylum. The similar decision of granting political asylum has been cancelled for former Moscow millionaire Alexander Konanykhin living in the USA for more than 11 years. The US authorities intend to deport Konanykhin to Russia where he is going to be prosecuted on a charge of stealing 8 million dollars from Vserossisky Birzhevoi bank he founded.
37-year-old Konanykhin is among the first superrich people of the early period of Russian capitalism. There are many romantic movies on Russian TV about that period when people like Konanykhin made a fortune. His personal capital is estimated to be over 300 million dollars. Currently Konanykhin is the modest owner of the Internet company.
The US authorities decided he must leave the country within 30 days. In theory, he can appeal this decision in the Department of Appeals on immigration cases, but Konyakhin sees no much chance for success. His wife Elena Gracheva must be deported as well, BBCRussian.com reports.
When capitalist system started being constructed in Russia, Konyakhin and former secret service officers founded Vserossisky Birzhevoi bank. However, the business was not doing well, Konyakhin had several fierce confrontations with his partners and employees, and finally he and his wife had to leave the country in a hide from the law enforcement authorities. First they lived in Hungary, then moved in the USA.
Konyakhin had patrons in the Kremlin, and he was younger than 30 years old when he became the President of Vserossisky Birzhevoi bank and started conducting auctions with hard currency. “When I started my own business in the USSR in 1985, I could not imagine that at the age of 25 I’d become the most powerful person in the country, and at the age of 29 – the most wanted catch for Russian mafia”,- Kalmykhin said in an interview to American reporters.
Izvestia newspaper wrote: “His main talent is the ability to “purchase” officials, first in the Soviet Union and then in Russia. KGB Generals, Ministers, important figures – they used to be the respected leaders of the powerful state and then became the puppets of the youngster, who paid them dozens thousand dollars and made hundreds thousand with their help”. Konanykhin was threatening to sue the newspaper, but did not do this.
This story is typical for the early period of capitalism in post-Soviet Russia. Being patronized by the mafia, special service structures and the political leaders of the “first democratic generation”, some companies obtained the authorities to operate using illegal methods. Then the fierce struggle for power took place inside such companies. Company partners killed not only each other, but also relatives – wives, children, distant relatives so that none of them could claim the right for the company and its shares. The members of one family “placed orders” for killing each other with professional killers from mafia or KGB.
Almost none of those market economy “enthusiasts” stayed alive until today. Many of them tried to survive by moving abroad. However, they were found wherever they were hiding, made sign the papers of rejecting their rights for their property, and then brutally killed. Russian super killer Alexander Solonik (who later was also killed in Greece) was famous in conducting such murders. Interestingly, such brutal methods were used even by the Party and Young Communist League former leaders and Russian Academy of Science members who became involved in business. This was the only way business was conducted in Russia those years.
Nevertheless, none of the first Russian millionaires arrived abroad penniless. Those of the marvelously survived pioneers of capitalism in Russia are all wealthy people. They left the country not only with their own money, but also with the money they stole from other people.
In Russia a criminal case has been instituted against Konanykhin. Russian Attorney General Office announced Konanykhin the object of the search worldwide. He is accused of stealing 8.1 million dollars from Vserossisky Birzhevoi bank. Currently the legal proceeding against Konanykhin has been elaborated in 102 volumes.
The conflict in Vserossisky Birzhevoi bank started in September 1992, when Alexander Konanykhin was fired from his position. The bank Board said that Mr. Konanykhin “used the money of the bank shareholders, depositors and clients for his personal purposes”. In turn, Mr. Konanykhin called the bank “mafia’s structure of former and current KGB-FSB servicemen”. Then Konanykhin immediately left Russia – first for Hungary, then for the USA.
The facts of involving some officers of FSB (KGB’s successor -Federal Security Service) in the bank operations were proved. The Chief Military Attorney General’s office started investigation. After they found proof of Konanykhin’s swindling activity, the Russian Attorney General’s Office began participating in the investigation. According to its data, in January of 1992 the banker received a 5 million dollar credit under the agreement with a Hungarian company. However, very soon the money was transferred in Konanykhin’s personal account in a bank in Hungarian capital Budapest. According to the case materials, Konanykhin also transferred in his Swiss bank account 3.1 million dollars on the fictitious agreement with the International Investment Association for Europe LTD. The company with this name has never existed. The Attorney General Office’s investigators discovered that Konanykhin and his wife live in the USA and sent an official request to arrest the former banker.
The banker has a different version. He says his former partners from KGB reached him in Hungary. Being kidnapped and threatened with murder, Konanykhin had to sign the papers of transferring the bank ownership to his partners. However, the former KGB servicemen continued following the former banker, and he and his wife had to secretly move in the USA. There he felt he was no more in danger. He lived in a prestigious Watergate complex. The businessman denies the allegations against him and says the former KGB revenges him for his public criticism of corruption.
However, Konanykhin had problems with the US Legal system. In June 1996 he was arrested on a charge of violating the emigration laws of the USA. Immigration and Naturalization Service accused him of entering the USA on forged visa. Konanykhin was in prison for a year, but finally he won the case and was granted political asylum in the USA. The US media reported the chief reason for the court verdict favorable to Konanykhin was the testimony of him and his witnesses of his being followed by men from Russian special services. Americans decided his life can be in danger if he returns to Russia.
Immigration and Naturalization Service was supposed to pay Konanykhin 100 thousand dollars of compensation for the damage he had because of its prosecution. However, the INS officials won the case after appealing it. Having lost the case, Konanykhin was deprived of his political refugee status.
According to the Commission on Appeals, “there is no proof that Russian government uses legal criminal proceedings for political purposes.” Moreover, FBI cited its data that Konanykhin had serious problems with the Russian mafia group of criminal boss named “Yaponchik” (little Japanese). Nowadays all the members of this group are under arrest, and no Russian mafia members are interested in Konanykhin, FBI says.
The US officials state in the decision of his deportation that the chance of being the victim of organized crime does not guarantee the right for political asylum. If the government of another country is unable to protect the person from criminals, this person can be granted asylum in the USA only if the criminals follow his/her because of political reasons. American authorities have no doubt that Russian mafia was interested in Konanykhin only because of the money he stole, not for his political beliefs. Consequently, the US legal system has no reason to protect the former Moscow millionaire.
Konanykhin said he was shocked by the words from the decision of his deportation, that nobody is prosecuted for political reasons in Russia. “Today this sounds especially ironic – the whole world says about the new period of political repressions against the businessmen who openly expressed their opinions”. Konanykhin told a reporter the decision of his deportation means death to him.
“The repression period started with my case and ended with the case of my good friend and former partner Khodorkovsky. These are all the links of the same chain”,- Konanykhin said. However, he is not the figure the West can use for exerting pressure to Russia like oligarch Berezovsky and one of Chechen rebels leaders Zakaev, and arrested Mikhail Khodorkovsky will hardly remember that he has such a “friend” and “partner”.
The US authorities are not interested in Konanykhin’s future. In addition, getting rid of the Russian with dubious reputation gives a good chance of maintaining friendly relations with Russia. The USA will be able to ask for Russia’s assistance in return of granting its request to deport Konanykhin.