Bros, don’t shoot at each other. Who else is killing thieves in law? 

Bros, don’t shoot at each other. Who else is killing thieves in law?
Criminal ‘lords’ dispatch each other on a regular basis without exterior help Photo: The CrimeRussia

Law enforcement authorities must react to crimes regardless of their moral and ethic principles. But what a collision: the number of people they are supposed to struggle against, is thinning without any efforts from their side. The majority of murders of thieves-in-law remain unsolved... Are enforcement structures somehow involved into the mutual extermination of criminal ‘authorities’?

Many high-profile murders of famous people still remain unsolved. Take, for example, the assassination of TV host Vlad Listiev, journalist Dmitry Kholodov, general Lev Rokhlin, priest Aleksander Men, etc. where even the direct perpetrators were not identified. Masterminds behind the murders of Paul Klebnikov, Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Russian Edition, Deputy Galina Starovoitova, journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and politician Boris Nemtsov are unknown as well. 

In all these cases, the public and supreme command had put pressure on the investigators – it was politically important to solve the high-profile crimes, while for some policemen, it was a matter of honor to find the criminals. But if a crowned thief is killed, nobody rushes to submit complaints to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) and Prosecutor’s Office. In many such cases, criminal ‘authorities’ identify masterminds and direct perpetrators faster than the investigators – and pass sentences upon them (normally, death penalty). One can only wonder how objective and fair such ‘trials’ are...    

Аслан Усоян (Дед Хасан)

Aslan Usoyan (Ded Khasan)

The investigations of murders of such thieves’ generals as Vyacheslav Ivankov (Yaponchik) and Aslan Usoyan (Ded Khasan) have been officially terminated. The first one was shot with a sniper rifle in 2009 on Khoroshevskoe highway near Taisky Slon (Thai Elephant) restaurant. The crowned thief was admitted to a hospital with a penetrating abdominal wound and died a few months later. The second one was killed under similar circumstances in the yard of Stary Faeton (Old Phaeton) restaurant in 2013. Usoyan was fatally wounded to the head and died in the Intense Therapy Department of Botkin Hospital. 

The law enforcement authorities haven’t provided an official version of the murder of Ivankov, neither did they identify persons involved into it. Although the crime obviously was not an ordinary one. Vladimir Kolokoltsev, then-Head of the General Administration for the City of Moscow of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation (and the current Minister of Internal Affairs), has personally visited the crime scene in 2010. After the murder of the criminal ‘patriarch’, the police have demonstrated a good knowledge of the thieves’ world by predicting that the assassination of Usoyan won’t cause a global criminal war.

Могила Вячеслава Иванькова

Aleksander Mikhailov, ex-Deputy Head of the Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation (FSKN), who used to serve in the MIA and Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation, has noted at that time that “the completion of the criminal world redistribution should stabilize the situation – the less bandits are alive the better is for the society”.

Wishing or not, but the law enforcement structures have contributed to the conflict freeze by arresting in 2009 and then locking up for 10 years Tariel Oniani (Taro) – the main opponent of Yaponchik and Ded Khasan. Despite his confrontation with a powerful clan, Oniani is still alive and healthy and should get liberty soon with renewed vigor. In fact, he should be thankful to the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for that.

It can’t be ruled out that law enforcement structures were involved into the accusation of thief-in-law Rovshan Dzhaniev (Rovshan Lenkoransky) of complicity in the murder of Ded Khasan. Otherwise, it would be difficult to explain a surprising confession of Ulfat Tagiev (Rufat Gyandzhinsky) to complicity in that crime in 2014. No one would sign his own death warrant voluntarily...

To refresh background: Tagiev, a henchman of Rovshan Lenkoransky, was arrested in September 2013 in Moscow on suspicion of killing two businessman, including Elkham Aliev, cofounder of Lyblinsky market. A year later, Rufat Gyandzhinsky suddenly provided details of the murder of Ded Khasan to the investigators: allegedly, he was responsible for the escape of the assassins after the killing. However, he was unable to name the assassins’ paymasters, and the entire sorry has faded out over time. This episode is not even mentioned in the sentence passed upon Tagiev by the court. 

Where can thieves live safely? 

The Western countries demonstrate a totally different approach to murders, including assassinations of criminal ‘authorities’ – they neither grant indulgences to thieves-in-law nor try to collaborate with them. For instance, the European law enforcement structures had been putting a blind eye to non-violent crimes committed by the group lead by brothers Shushanashvili – however, after the murder of thief-in-law Vladimir Dzhanashia (Lado) in March 2010 in Marseille, the special services launched a large-scale operation against the entire network of gangsters from former Soviet states operating in Europe. Shortly after that, Kakhaber Shushanashvili (Kakha Rustavsky) has been arrested in Spain. The police had planned to bust Lasha Shushanashvili (Lasha Rustavsky) as well – but he managed to escape.

Кахабер Шушанашвили (Каха Руставский)

Kakhaber Shushanashvili (Kakha Rustavsky)

Lasha Shushanashvili has been arrested in Greece in early 2012 and sentenced to 14 years behind bars. However, he was released after serving only 2.5 years of his term and recently detained again – but this is a totally different story. In the meantime, Spanish, French, German, Greek, etc. law enforcement authorities started making raids on a regular basis detaining dozens of members of ‘Russian mafia’ at once. The last such operation was carried out in mid-April in France and Greece and resulted in arrests of some 40 criminal ‘authorities’. 

Turkey has a different attitude towards thieves from former Soviet states. For many of them, this country became the main home base. Normally, they don’t commit crimes there – but instead try to live a quiet life. However, ‘sins’ from their past continue stalking the criminals and bring many of them to death – but the local law enforcement structures are not really interested in such incidents. Apparently, the Turkish policing authorities have no desire to bother themselves with complicated relations between foreign criminals. 

The progress of the inquest into the murder of thief-in law Rovshan Dzhaniev (Rovshan Lenkoransky) committed in Istanbul in 2016 is unknown. It is even unknown whether the case is still under investigation or not. Recently the Turkish police have released four persons arrested on suspicion of complicity in the murder of Georgian crowned thief Gaioz Zviadadze (Giorkhelidze) also known as Giya Kutaissky.

Автомобиль, в котором расстреляли Ровшана Джаниева

Gunned down car of Rovshan Dzhaniev

Earlier might-have-been avengers under the leadership of Dzhaniev’s brother Namik blaming Nadir Salifov (Guli) for the murder of Rovshan Lenkoransky and willing to do justice on him have been set free. In mid-February, Namik Dzhaniev, thief-in-law Talybkhany Khadzhibaba Takhir oglu (Khadzhi Beilagansky), and Azerbaijani citizens Dzhamal Gasanov and Orkhan Ismailov arrested in November 2017 have been released from the pretrial detention facility. It is necessary to note that this was not the first encounter between Khadzhi Beilagansky and the Turkish police – earlier he was suspected of complicity in the murder of Alibala Gamidov (Godzha Bakinsky) in 2013, but ultimately became a witness in that case. 

In 2015, 46-year-old crowned thief Vadim Ivanenko (Vadik Krasnodarsky) was murdered in Turkey. He has relocated to this country after being accused in Russia of stealing a portion of the thieves’ pooled cash fund in the amount of $6 million he was supposed to safeguard. Later it became known that thief-in-law Oleg Pirogov (Tsirkach (Circus Man)) and his associate Almas Konsbaev (Mongol) have arrived to Turkey to kill him and Mongol shot Ivanenko dead. 

Вадим Иваненко (Вадик Краснодарский)

The local law enforcement structures have quickly arrested the assassins together with a few other criminal ‘authorities’ – but all of them, including Tsirkach and Mongol, were released under a written pledge not to leave the city. Upon getting liberty, Tsirkach decided to flee Turkey via Iraq with the support of his close associate, thief-in-law Tsezar (Caesar). The crowned thieves have been arrested at a checkpoint in Iraqi Kurdistan after crossing the Turkish-Iraqi border and charged with terrorism. Tsirkach and Tsezar spent eight months in detention; in the meantime, their lawyers managed to engage the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation into that case. The ministry has provided to the Iraqi authorities information confirming that these two persons never had ties with terrorists. After the submission of the documents via diplomatic channels, the things started moving forward. Ultimately, the Iraqi authorities have released the thieves-in-law, and they returned to Russia.

Last year, crowned thief David Alkhanishvili (Dato Pankissky) was killed in Turkey. The local law enforcement authorities failed to capture the assassin and named Armenian thief-in-law Andranik Sogoyan (Zap) the most likely suspect in that case. Recently it became known in the criminal circles that Zap might be directly involved into two more high-profile assassination attempts committed against crowned thief Gochi Alpaidze (Alfason) and Gaikom Nikogosyan (Aiko Karabakhsky). It must be noted that Sogoyan currently is in bad repute in his native country because of his collaboration with the Armenian Ministry of Internal Affairs. 

Even the murder of a policeman during an attempted assassination of thief-in-law Ali Geidarov (Albert Ryzhy (Albert the Red)) in 2014 in Edirne hasn’t changed the stance of the Turkish authorities. None of the assailants were detained. The police, however, have got questions to the slain officer who had reportedly combined his service duties with protection of Geidarov – and paid dearly for that. 

Overall, the lack of tough responses to murders of crowned thieves from the local authorities incites the assassins to do their job in Turkey. As a result, the country became a true thieves’ battlefield in the recent years. 

During the rule of Saakashvili, a special law has been enacted in Georgia enabling the authorities to detain all persons considering themselves ‘thieves-in-law’. In past-maidan Ukraine – the favorite destination of Georgian thieves – they are steadily captured and expelled. Although nothing prevents them from returning back after some time... 

In Russia, Article 228 of the Criminal Code (illegal acquisition, storage, transportation, making or processing of narcotic drugs), earlier used to put crowned thieves behind bars, has been recently replaced with another, more severe and fitting them better Article 210 (creation of a criminal community (criminal organization) and participation therein). It is more difficult to prove charges laid under that article – but the punishments under it are much more stern and include imprisonment for life. 

Belarus uses a more radical approach towards the criminal world. After the murder of Evgeny Mikolutsky, Chairman of the State Control Committee of the Mogilev Region and Deputy of the House of Representatives, in 1997, President Aleksander Lukashenko said that the criminals are going “to live on the volcano” since then. A special Presidential Decree On Urgent Measures to Combat Terrorism and Other Especially Grievous Violent Crimes was signed soon. All citizens falling under that category can be detained for a period of up to one month without lodging of charges. Based on further events, the war on the criminal world announced by the national leader was not restricted by the legal framework. Some criminal ‘authorities’ were put to jail, while the fate of others remains unknown. 

On December 10, 1997, thief-in-law Vladimir Kleshch (Shchavlik) has disappeared without a trace. The criminal circles link his vanishing with the law enforcement structures – operatives had kept Kleshch under close surveillance shortly before his disappearance.

Владимир Клещ (Щавлик)

Vladimir Kleshch (Shchavlik)

In summer 1999, thief-in-law Aleksander Tratsevsky (Tratsa) has disappeared as well. In August 2000, crowned thief Gennady Lukashov (Lukash) was shot dead near a night club in Vitebsk. In 2001, Nikolai Gaev and Sergei Dubrov were assassinated in Mozyr; according to the operatives, they were leaders of a local organized criminal group. 

Rumors circulated at that time that some unknown armed people had abducted seven criminal ‘authorities’, driven them away from Minsk, shot dead, and buried. The criminal circles called this story an anecdote – but admitted that sometimes operatives were taking bros to the forest and shooting over their heads or into the ground with the purpose not to kill, but to scare them. 

This is how the Belarus authorities have prevented scattered criminal groups from merging together and completely eliminated them later. 

According to some sources, President Lukashenko could borrow such law enforcement practices from Russia of the 1990s – at that time, our country was combating the organized crime in a similar way. 

White Arrow 

The 1990s are normally dubbed “turbulent” in Russia. This ‘turbulence’ involved inter alia numerous contract killings extrinsic for the Soviet period. 

In 1992, thief-in-law Viktor Nikiforov (Kalina (Guelder Rose)), an adopted son of crowned thief Vyacheslav Ivankov (Yaponchik) was killed. A year later, Valery Dlugach (Globus), a leader of Baumanskie organized criminal group, was shot dead with a submachine gun at the entrance of a disco club. In the same year, prominent thief Sergei Lipchansky (Sibiryak (Siberian)) has disappeared without a trace. He became famous for holding a thieves’ congregation in the pretrial isolator of Butyrka prison in May 1992 – even seasoned law enforcement officers were shocked with this. A year later, Vladislav Vanner (Bobon), a henchman of Globus, was killed on Volokolamskoe highway. Aleksander Solonik (Aleksander Makedonsky (Alexander the Great)) is believed to be the perpetrator of these murders. In 1997, he was assassinated in Greece.

Александр Солоник (Александр Македонский)

Aleksander Solonik (Aleksander Makedonsky)

Sergei Timofeev (Sylvester), leader of Orekhovskie organized criminal group was killed in 1994 – his car was blown up on 3rd Tverskaya-Yamskaya street using a radio-controlled bomb. Earlier that year, Otari Kvantrishvili (Otarik) was shot dead with a sniper rifle at the entrance to Krasnopresnenskie bathhouse. In 2006, it was announced that this crime has been solved. In 2009, Aleksei Sherstobitov (Lesha Soldat (Lesha the Soldier)) has been sentenced to 23 years behind bars for a number of criminal episodes, including the assassination of Kvantrishvili. The supposed mastermind of that crime – Sergei Butorin (Osya), leader of Orekhovskie organized criminal group, – has been sentenced in 2011 to life in prison. Aleksander Pustovalov (Sasha Soldat (Sasha the Soldier)), another ‘staff killer’ of Orekhovskie gang, has been sentenced in 2005 to 23 years behind bars for a number of episodes, including the murder of Solonik.

Взорванный «Мерседес» «ореховского» «авторитета» Сильвестра

Blasted Mercedes of Sylvester, leader of Orekhovskie gang

These and other murders of criminal ‘authorities’ sweeping over the country in that period have sparked a myth of a secret organization of law enforcement officers – so-called “White Arrow” – struggling against the organized crime in such a way. There was also an opinion that this unofficial organization consisted of former enforcement officers fed up with the criminal mayhem in the country. Its another alleged purpose was to prevent the infiltration of bandits into the politics. For instance, Kvantrishvili had actively promoted Sportsmeny Rossii (Russian Athletes) Party...

The myth was indirectly confirmed by the professional performance of many murders committed using firearms, explosives, poisons, and even special devices. Take, for instance, Sherstobitov, who was not only a skilled sharpshooter – but also a master of secrecy. Being very cautious, he had excellently disguised himself using fake mustache and beard; in one of the episodes, he was even wearing a priest’s robe. Sherstobitov had carefully planned his operations. Once he had tried to assassinate the victim by planting a radio-controlled grenade in the elevator instead of the light bulb. He had planted the grenade in the evening and replaced it with the light bulb in the morning. In an attempt to kill Aleksander Tarantsev, owner of Russian Gold company, he used a remotely controlled submachine gun installed in a car parked across the office entrance. However, the device failed to function...

The White Arrow existence was never confirmed officially, but the life itself had fed the beliefs in it. For instance, Solonik was considered a member of that organization – this could explain his escapes from penitentiary institutions. Another indirect proof was the usage of special forces troopers by bandits pursuing their own interests.

Алексей Шерстобитов во время своей свадьбы в колонии

Wedding of Aleksei Sherstobitov in the penal colony

In 1996, somebody has dispatched the main rivals of the brigade under the leadership of Gennady Nedoseka (Gena Bolshoi (Gena the Big)) who later became the Head of the Chekhov District of the Moscow Region. During a meeting of the conflicting parties in Grot (Cove) coffee bar, ten members of the gang led by brothers Korchagin were seized by people in camouflage and driven to the forest. Only three of them have returned back – battered and scared to death; the rest of the mobsters were found four years later beneath a one-meter-thick layer of concrete in a garage not far from the town. The investigation failed to prove the complicity of Nedoseka (by that time, he has already become the Head of the Chekhov District) in the massacre due to lack of evidence. In 2004, Nedoseka was burned alive

in his armored Hummer vehicle. 

In 1996, a similar story occurred in the Podolsk district. Two local residents – a repeated offender and his acquaintance – were abducted under similar circumstances. According to the witnesses, people in camouflage – resembling those spotted in Grot coffee bar – were involved into the incident. The ‘troopers’ have seized their victims at the entrance to Dubrovitsy township. A few months later, the victims’ car has been found – the vehicle with blood traces inside was sunken in a forest lake. Later mushroom pickers have found buried bodies of the two men. This crime still remains unsolved and is attributed to the ‘avengers in uniform’. 

Concurrently with the discovery of the victims’ bodies, a similar incident occurred in the town of Pushchino of the Moscow region: a local resident wielding, according to the operative information, certain authority in the local criminal community, was abducted in broad daylight by ‘special forces troopers’. According to the witnesses, the man was seized by ‘law enforcement officers’. All the searches for him were in vain. 

In late 1996, seven local residents aged 20 to 27 years were abducted from an apartment in a building on Stroitelei street in Khimki. Three of them were bandits, the remaining four reportedly were drug dealers. According to witnesses, the abductors have arrived to the scene by a yellow police UAZ vehicle. None of the kidnapped Khimki residents was ever found.

Сергей Буторин (Ося)

Sergei Butorin (Osya)

In 1997, the Prosecutor of the Smolensk Region received a submission from a local businessman racketeered by a gang led by Tigran Petrosyan. Earlier Petrosyan was scared by a mysterious disappearance of his two closest associates – the body of one of them was later found in abandoned rural home. There were no rival gangs in the region – so Petrosyan had suspected obscure White Arrow of this and feared to become their next victim. In early 1999, all the enforcement officers named by the businessman and even an acting officer of the General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate have been detained. But two years later, the investigation was terminated for lack of strong evidence. Later the applicant and Petrosyan, who had initiated his submission, have confessed to falsification. However, neither the confession made by the bandit, nor his relocation to Moscow, nor change of name could save him – in 2000, the Smolensk criminal ‘authority’ was gunned down in the northwestern part of the Russian capital. 

In November 1998, several FSB officers, including Aleksander Litvinenko, told at a press conference held by Interfax that the supreme command had forced them to commit murders, abductions, and extortion. Later it was announced that in the early 1990s, the Directorate for Surveillance on Criminal Organizations had been established under the command of general Evgeny Khokholkov. The directorate had a manpower of 150 operatives and infiltrated agents into criminal communities. According to the press conference, officers of the Directorate for Surveillance on Criminal Organizations had practiced extra-judicial killings. 

Shortly after that, two whistleblowers were fired (Konstantin Latyshonok and Andrei Pon’kin), one of them (Mikhail Trepashkin) put to prison for divulgence of state secrets and illegal possession of ammunition, one more (Viktor Shebalin) has withdrawn his statements, while Aleksander Litvinenko was killed. 

In fact, thieves-in-law always had plenty of reasons for mutual extermination and never needed ‘assistance’ of law enforcement structures. For instance, shortly before his death, Globus had a conflict with Sylvester over Arlekino (Harlequin) night club. Sylvester had invested big money into that club and expected to make a scoop on it. But the club was located on a territory controlled by Baumanskie organized criminal group under the leadership of Duglach. Amid his historical enmity with Caucasian criminal groups, on the brink of his own assassination, Sylvester himself has made enemies among henchmen of Kvantrishvili killed shortly before that, had a conflict with Berezovsky, whose car was blasted as well, and could run foul of Yaponchik

O tempora! O mores

The 2000s changed the relations between the law enforcement authorities and criminals. In the past, the former had opposed the latter – even using illegal methods – but in the 21st century, the old rivals started merging together driven by their lust for money. 

In the course of investigation of the criminal case against Zakhary Kalashov (Shakro Molodoy), the FSB has uncovered, in addition to his ties with high-ranked ICR functionaries, links between the enforcement structures and Aslan Gagiev (Dzhako), leader of a gang of killers. Thanks to Denis Bogorodetsky, primary witness in the first case, it became known that two friends – Vadim Shavlokhov, Head of the 4th Operations and Search Division of the Department of Criminal Investigation of the MIA General Administration for the Moscow Region, and former MIA officer Evgeny Surzhikov had, in fact, ‘covered up’ the gang led by Dzhako. They had notified the bandits of upcoming police raids and provided operative information to them. Surzhikov had also acted as a fixer and assisted in personnel reshuffles in the MIA for the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania in the interests of Gagiev.

Аслан Гагиев (Джако) 

Aslan Gagiev (Dzhako)

For instance, in 2014, Shavlokhov provided investigative documents pertaining to crimes committed by the organized criminal community in the Moscow region to Arkady Gabalov (Galstuk (Tie)), lawyer of the gang, in exchange for $100 thousand. In June 2016, Shavlokhov and Surzhikov have been arrested. Last year, Shavlokhov has been sentenced to 9 years in a maximum security penal colony. To refresh background: the gang led by Gagiev is considered one of the most cruel criminal groups; it has committed at least 60 murders in the period of 2005–2010 in the Moscow region and North-Caucasian Federal District. Aslan Gagiev, leader of the bloody gang, currently remains in Austria; he has been detained in early 2015, and his extradition to Russia is still under consideration. Several gang members were killed by enforcement officers during their arrests; several other assassins are under investigation in Russia, while a dozen of them have already been sentenced to severe prison terms for their crimes. 

In 2017, a gang consisting of FSB (!) officers has been busted in the Tyumen region. Initially, two its members were arrested for a double homicide – one of them turned out to be an FSB officer, while the other one – an officer of the Special Riot Police Force. In a few days, two more FSB operatives have been arrested on suspicion of murders. Sergei Gilev, a sniper of the Special Task Force of the FSB Directorate for the Tyumen Region, was the gang leader. His body was later found in a cell of the pretrial detention facility with slashed wrists and cut throat. At that time, 6 murders were proven and admitted by the suspects. However, the total number of their crimes might amount to 53. According to The CrimeRussia source, the gang of killers could accept contracts from notorious Viktor Konteev, ex-Vice Mayor of Yekaterinburg, convicted to 18 years in a maximum security penal colony for bribe-taking. 

In addition, there were numerous gangs of assassins consisting of former enforcement officers. Take, for instance, the criminal group under the leadership of Andrei Sofronov who used to serve in special forces. In 4.5 years, the killers have committed 6 contract assassinations of businessmen; 5 victims were killed on the scene.

Андрей Сафронов (Андрей Смоленский)

Andrei Sofronov (Andrei Smolensky)

In 2016, Sofronov has been convicted to life in prison. But how many law enforcement officers were aware of the existence of criminal groups and covered up their operations? Aside from interdepartmental wars – like the one waged by the FSB and ICR in the case against Shakro Molodoy – such ‘rogue cops’ normally manage to get off cheaply and are sentenced to small prison terms for exceeding official powers or bribe-taking. 

In any event, the thieves and law enforcement authorities can’t be considered uncompromising antagonists ready to exterminate each other anymore. The majority of the former ones became ‘authoritative’ businessmen, while the latter ones feel themselves pretty confident and have no intention to change the game rules. The main focus of the law enforcement activities has now shifted from criminals to terrorists and opposition leaders. In comparison with them, thieves seem to pose a lesser threat to the political system and may continue living at ease.

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