Taromancy. Authoritative thief-in-law to change thieves’ world? 

Taromancy. Authoritative thief-in-law to change thieves’ world?
Taro has a good chance to become thief № 1 in Russia Photo: The CrimeRussia

Despite the successful election of a placeholder for the supreme Russian thief’s throne, the criminal world is likely on the verge of another spiral of confrontation between its clans. While Shakro Molodoy remains in jail, one of his main opponents – Tariel Oniani (Taro) – is going to be released soon. Taro is ready and willing to supersede Kalashov forever.

It is well remembered in criminal circles that in addition to thief-in-law Zakhary Kalashov (Shakro Molodoy (Shakro Junior)) hyped up so much by the media, another ‘mammoth’ of the thieves’ world – Tariel Oniani (Taro) – is currently finishing his prison term. There is no confusion and vacillation among the supporters of Shakro lining up behind him in this difficult time – but there are true predators roaming at some distance and eager to destroy the criminal empire inherited by Shakro from ‘patriarch’ of the criminal world Aslan Usoyan (Ded Khasan). 

The thief’s status of Taro, who is currently incarcerated in Black Dolphin, one of the strictest penal colonies in the country, together with serial killers and terrorists sentenced to life, is not recognized by everybody – and, of course, not by the supporters of Shakro Molodoy who have elected a placeholder for his throne for the duration of his pretty lengthy (9 years and 10 months) prison term. To refresh background: on March 27, Nikulinsky District Court of Moscow has found Kalashov guilty of extortion of 8 million rubles ($130 thousand) from the owner of Elements Restaurant in Moscow.

The nomination of influential Slavic thief-in-law Oleg Shishkanov (Shishkan/Oleg Ramensky) was supported by many authoritative thieves, including Vasily Khristoforov (Vasya Voskres (Vasya Resurrected)) and Merab Gogia (Melia) appointed the keepers of the thieves’ pooled cash fund, as well as Yuri Pichugin (Pichuga (Little Bird)) who was also considered a candidate for the Shakro’s throne prior to his arrest.

Олег Шишканов (Шишкан)

Oleg Shishkanov (Shishkan)

Aleksei Petrov (Petrik) and Sergei Aksenov (Aksen) were reportedly supposed to participate in the voting. The following persons planned to express their opinion on the candidacy of the new thief № 1: Mikhail Voevodin (Misha Luzhnetsky) residing in Switzerland for most of the time, Vladimir Tyurin (Tyurik) also considered a favorite among contenders for the throne, Andrei Miroedov (Mirych), Eduard Asatryan (Edik Osetrina (Edik Sturgeon)), relatives of Kalashov – brothers Shalva and David Ozmanov, and leader of the ‘Greek’ clan Lasha Shushanashvili (Lasha Rustavsky). Overall, all the more or less influential thieves-in-law were given a possibility to speak – except for those considered unworthy to participate in the election of the supreme thief of the country by the clan uniting associates of late Ded Khasan. However, despite the seeming indifference of Oniani to events occurring in the thieves’ world, he still remains an authority for many people and has a strong support base both in Russia and abroad. In the changing situation, all these persons may intensify their opposition to the supporters of Shakro Molodoy. Especially taking that Taro’s term is about to expire in a couple of years. No one can guarantee that after his release, Shishkan, the successor to Shakro Molodoy, is able to successfully discharge his mandate. The ambitions of Oniani are extremely high and go far beyond the reinstatement of his ‘good name’. 

History already 

This was not always the case. Should the history make a different twist, Taro would be the undisputed candidate for the Shakro’s throne or could even sit on it already. 

Tariel Oniani was born in 1958 in Lentekhi township located in the western part of Georgia. He winded up in jail at the age of 17. Three years later, he was crowned in the presence of 12 thieves. Five more thieves-in-law have provided their written consent. Currently the criminal record of thief Taro includes at least 8 convictions for extortion, robberies, and thefts.

Тариел Ониани (Таро)

In the 1980s, Taro has settled in Moscow and became the leader of the powerful Kutaisi clan. In the early 1990s, Oniani has emigrated to Europe: initially he lived in France and then in Span where was supposedly running a construction business. In 2003, Zakhary Kalashov has also relocated there. At his birthday party held in luxury Montiboli Hotel located on the Alicante shore, Ded Khasan, Taro, and many other influential crowned thieves have decided to create money laundering channels for criminal proceeds by investing the funds into real estate in resort areas of Spain.

Shakro Molodoy was appointed responsible for this scheme. Taro was also involved into the ‘laundromat’ operations – dozens of expensive mansions had been purchased in his name. 

Everything was going fine – but in 2005, the Spanish law enforcement authorities have launched one of the largest police operations in Europe dubbed Operation Wasp and involving armored vehicles and helicopters. More than 400 police officers have performed some 50 searches in various parts of Spain where properties belonging to Oniani were located. The crowned thief managed to escape though. 

Kalashov also had to flee; he was arrested in May 2006 in the United Arab Emirates and extradited to Spain. In summer 2007, the Madrid Court has sentenced him to 7.5 years behind bars and fine of €20 million. Kalashov was found guilty of laundering criminal proceeds and creating of an organized criminal group. Later the sentence imposed by the Spanish court has been reviewed and increased to 9 years behind bars. 

Oniani had expected to be put in control of the financial flows – but Usoyan has decided otherwise and appointed Lasha Rustavsky to manage the business empire built by combined efforts of many people (in addition, Lasha was recognized one of the leaders of the Tbilisi clan, while his brother Kakhaber Shushanashvili took control over criminal groups operating in Europe). Of course, Oniani was displeased with such a scenario and unwilling to lose hundreds of millions of dollars invested into the foreign real estate. 

Upon returning to Russia in 2006, Oniani launched vigorous activity ignoring interests of the of the Tbilisi clan. With the support of a number of influential thieves-in-law, he decided to take control over the assets of detained Shakro Molodoy and seize the criminal business operating in the southern part of Russia. This made Ded Khasan really concerned – first, the Krasnodar krai has been his domain since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and second, he had to answer for his fellow countryman and henchman Shakro Molodoy

Usoyan made it look like it was not him conflicting with Oniani – but Shushanashvili, who had to meet with Taro and answer him for the situation. Such meetings never brought any good. Finally, at one of the meetings, Lasha Rustavsky and Taro have accused each other of collaboration with secret services and other violations of the thieves’ code and nearly had a fight. The war splitting many thieves-in-law between the two rival groups became inevitable.

Лаша Шушанашвили (Руставский)

Lasha Shushanashvili (Lasha Rustavsky)

In addition to Yaponchik, Pichuga, Shushanashvili, and Shakro Molodoy, the following people took the side of Usoyan: Dato Kutaissky, Vasya Voskres, Vagon, Alfason, Dato Krasnodarsky, Mamuka, Cheburashka, Kostya Shram, Giya Galsky, etc. On the other hand, Merab Sukhumsky, Ramaz Dzneladze (Ramaz Kutaissky), Kukhilava (Antik), Giya Svan, Akhmed Sutuly, Timokha Gomelsky, and other, mostly Georgian, crowned thieves have sided with Taro

The war 

In April 2008, Ded Khasan, Pichuga, and Yaponchik have challenged the thief’s status of Oniani and his supporters Merab Dzhangveladze, Aleksander Timoshenko (Timokha Gomelsky), and Dmitry Galeev (Galey). Pichuga was a member of the ‘patriarch’s’ inner circle, while Yaponchik, owing to Usoyan for his support (including financial one) after the return from the US, had opposed Oniani on personal grounds as well.

Юрий Лужков и Георгий (Гела) Церцвадзе (в центре)

In the late 1980s – early 1990s, Yaponchik was serving a term in Special Prison № 2 of Tulun and had a feud there with a very powerful in the Irkutsk region thief-in-law – Ilya Simonia (Makho), a friend of Oniani. Therefore, his stance in that war was obvious. 

In response, Oniani was trying, with the support of other thieves, to decrown Lasha Rustavsky. The rival parties had disagreed with decisions made by their adversaries and the confrontation was escalating.

The last attempt to settle the conflict was a major congregation on the Pirogovskoe Reservoir organized by Oniani in summer 2008. But Yaponchik and Ded Khasan, who were invited there, haven’t attended the meeting, while other participants failed to discuss anything – SWAT troopers have arrived and arrested everybody.

In November 2008, an assassination attempt was committed in Moscow against businessman Georgy Tsertsvadze (Gela) close to Taro. The assailants have gunned down the victim from a car and fled. Tsertsvadze was hit in the chest, abdomen, and hip, but managed to survive. However, he became confined to wheelchair after the incident. Tsertsvadze managed the legal business of Oniani, had close ties with Yuri Luzhkov, then-Mayor of Moscow, and held for some time the post of a Counselor at the Georgian Embassy in Russia. 

Next year, Sochi native Alik Minalyan (Alik Sochinsky), member of the Usoyan’s clan, was shot dead in the western part of Moscow. Then thief-in-law Andrei Golubev (Skif) and authority Aleksander Korsakov (Korsak) were killed. However, these deaths could be attributed to internal squabbles – Minalyan was suspected of misuse of the thieves’ pooled cash fund, while Golubev and Korsakov could be victims of the war against Uralmashevskie organized criminal group. 

Still, shortly after that, one of the most high-profile crimes in the new Russian history has been committed. On July 28, 2009, Yaponchik was wounded in the stomach at the exit of Taisky Slon (Thai Elephant) Restaurant on Khoroshevskoe highway. 

By that time, Oniani was already detained on suspicion of kidnapping a Georgian businessman. His attorneys had offered a bail of 15 million rubles ($244.3 thousand) for him, but the court has remanded Taro in custody.

Андрей Голубев (Скиф)

After the assassination attempt against Yaponchik, Ded Khasan has gathered a congregation involving more than 30 thieves right in Matrosskaya Tishina (Seaman’s Silence) Pretrial Detention Center; the congregation has produced a circular letter completely decrowning Taro. Yaponchik has also signed it; several months later, he died of peritonitis. 

On March 18, 2010, assassins have killed, at the third attempt, thief-in-law Vladimir Dzhanashia (Lado), a henchman of Merab Sukhumsky, in Marseille. Despite the administered medical assistance, he died in one of the city hospitals. The media noted that in the last months, Lado was, in fact, under siege – the manhunt on him begun immediately after the attempted assassination of Yaponchik. According to Spanish investigators, henchmen of Kakhaber Shushanashvili were behind the murder of Lado.

On May 10, 2010, Malkhaza Kitia (Makhonia), considered the likely mastermind behind the attempted assassination of Ivankov, was shot dead in Greece. 

Two weeks later, thief-in-law Lavrenty Choladakis (Leva Stavropolsky/Leva Grek) suddenly died in Greece. He was an associate of Yaponchik and friend of Ded Khasan. The official cause of his death was a floating thrombus – but not everybody trusted that version. Choladakis had assisted several influential criminals, including Lasha Shushanashvili, to relocate to Greece. In addition, he was in charge of several brigades of killers eliminating supporters of the Oniani’s clan. 

In July 2010, Tariel Oniani has been sentenced to 10 years behind bars. Many people thought that he has sustained a defeat in the confrontation with Ded Khasan – but soon it became clear that this was not the case. 

On September 16, 2010, an assassination attempt was committed against Usoyan. The killer was waiting for the thief-in-law near the home of his son Nodari on Tverskaya street. The authority received three gunshot wounds in the stomach but survived. 

Concurrently, Oniani started taking efforts to reinstate his thief’s status. Merab Sukhumsky and his brother Levon residing in Tbilisi have held negotiations with very respected 85-year-old crowned thief Georgy Chikovani (Gogi) – the only thief-in-law remaining on the loose in Georgia at that time whose decisions were mandatory for other mafiosi. Brothers Dzhangveladze asked Chikovani to judge the situation with Oniani. The elderly authority has upheld their stance; as a result, in 2011, when Oniani was serving time in the Penal Colony № 29 of Kemerovo, another circular letter reinstating the thief’s powers of Taro has been issued for prisons. Furthermore, a moratorium was imposed on the crowning of Usoyan’s henchmen. In addition to Gogi, the circular letter was signed by several dozens of criminal ‘generals’, including Amiran Erbalidze (Amiran Lanchkhutsky) and Gurman Chikaberidze (Chika). Other signatories were Merab Sukhumsky, Timokha Gomelsky, Akhmed Sutuly, etc. The war continued.

Георгий Чиковани (Гоги) (крайний слева)

Georgy Chikovani (Gogi) (on the far left) 

In August 2011, members of the Ded Khasan’s clan – thief-in-law David Ozmanov (Dato Krasnodarsky), a relative of Kalashov, and authority Roman Manukyan – were cruelly beaten and stabbed multiple times in a Belgian bar as per order from Merab Sukhumsky. Concurrently, police colonel Tamaz Broi (Tamazik) acting as the main intermediary between the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation and Ded Khasan was killed in his own car. This fellow countryman of Usoyan (Broi was born in Tbilisi in a Yezidi Kurdish family) had served in the Inter-Regional Center for Protection of Transported Assets of the MIA General Administration of Extradepartmental Protection and was a frequent visitor in the headquarters of Usoyan. 

Thief-in-law Badri Koguashvili (Badri Kutaissky), who has returned in 2011 from the US, tried to organize a new congregation involving Ded Khasan to give him a possibility to explain his conflict with Oniani and recent crowning of five people allegedly carried out with violations of the established procedure. However, Usoyan had been avoiding such congregations since the mid-1990s, and he sent to Badri a newly-crowned Chechen thief-in-law Gilani Sedoy. Then Koguashvili winded up in Butyrskaya Prison himself, and shortly after that, a circular letter announcing his decrowning has been issued without any grounds. The letter was signed by thieves controlled by Usoyan, including Gela and Gizo Kardava, Shamil Smolyansky, Giya Galsky, Duyake, Roland Shlyapa, etc. 

Бадри Когуашвили (Бадри Кутаисский)

Badri Koguashvili (Badri Kutaissky)

In April 2012, authority Ilgar Dzhabrailov (Danabash), member of the Ded Khasan’s clan responsible for liaison with certain people in secret services and law enforcement structures, was shot dead in Moscow. In addition, he was the overseer of Moscow markets and vegetable warehouses. 

Ultimately, the contact has escalated so much that, according to the Italian police, in September 2012, Merab Sukhumsky and representatives of other clans hostile to Ded Khasan – Rovshan Dzhaniev (Rovshan Lenkoransky), Dzhemal Mikeladze (Dzhemo), and Oniani participating in the conversation over the phone – agreed to eliminate Aslan Usoyan. 

On January 16, 2013, Usoyan was fatally wounded to the head in the yard of Stary Faeton (Old Phaeton) Restaurant located in the Central House of Writers (55 Bolshaya Nikitskaya street) and later died in the intensive care unit of Botkin Hospital. 

Inherited war 

In 2010, Georgia has filed with the Spanish Ministry of Justice a request to extradite Zakhary Kalashov for further prosecution. Shakro Molodoy has been sentenced in absentia to 18 years behind bars in this motherland for abduction of a person and creation of an illegal armed group. In December 2014, the Spanish court has decided to extradite the thief-in-law to Russia instead of Georgia. The reasons behind this decision are unknown, but, according to one of the versions, this was the gratitude of Spanish law enforcement structures to their Russian colleagues for assistance in the exposure of the criminal community in Spain. Surprisingly, but upon arrival to Russia, Kalashov was not arrested to continue serving his term – instead, he was released after a short talk with the law enforcement authorities.

Возвращение Калашова в Россию

Return of Kalashov to Russia

After his return to Russia, Kalashov likely wasn’t out for scalps of his enemies. Quite the opposite – he has made a number of steps to pacify all the rivals and become a guarantor of their safety in exchange for the common recognition. In 2015, he has decrowned a dozen thieves-in-law and then imposed an indefinite ban on new coronations at a major congregation in Yerevan in order to prevent reinforcements of scarce thieves’ clans, thus, weakening those. 

However, the wars between clans that got stronger during the absence of Shakro Molodoy had continued. Take for example the vendetta between thieves-in-law Nadir Salifov (Guli) and Rovshan Dzhaniev that has ultimately led to the death of the latter in 2016. But unlike the current situation, this hadn’t affected the positions of Shakro Molodoy at that time.

Надир Салифов (Гули)

Nadir Salifov (Guli)

Guli enjoys great authority with the Azerbaijani diaspora and actively operates not only in Russia, but also in Ukraine, Turkey, and European countries. He has already made new enemies – Chechen thief-in-law Aziz Batukaev and authority Khamzat Gastamirov (Sheikh Khamzat), former European partner of Rovshan Lenkoransky. Their representatives threaten Guli and provoke him to launch an armed confrontation on a regular basis. After the forthcoming release of another Chechen thief-in-law Akhmed Dombaev (Akhmed Shalinsky), they would constitute together a considerable power. 

Guli does not rush to join any coalitions. He keeps a distance from brothers Kardava, members of the Mingrelian clan and similarly with him residing in Turkey, and rarely communicates with Mingrelian aksakal Merab Mzarelua (Duyake) – despite their participation in the crowning of Guli’s brother Namik.

Хамзат Гастамиров (Шейх Хамзат)

Khamzat Gastamirov (Sheikh Khamzat)

In early 2018, Salifov had hosted in his home a Greek delegation involving recently assassinated Gainoz Zviadadze (Giya Kutaissky) and Zaal Makharoblidze (Glekhovich). The meeting was held      in a friendly atmosphere – but no more than that. 

He does not even make overtures to the most potentially valuably ally – Merab Dzhangveladze. After his release from an Italian jail in April 2016, Dzhangveladze has also relocated to Turkey. But according to some information, they haven’t become partners because of Guli’s suspicions that Merab Sukhumsky was involved into the assassination attempt committed against him last year. Associates of Salifov believe that Dzhangveladze could be aware of it. 

In fact, the public now links the majority of assassination attempts committed against thieves-in-law abroad with the name of Merab Sukhumsky. Take for example the recent murder of Giya Kutaissky, a close associate of Shushanashvili, – this could be a revenge from Dzhangveladze for defection of two his associates – Georgy Nizharadze (Giya) and Gochi Alpaidze (Alfason). In any event, such talks imply that Dzhangveladze possesses enough power to solve any problem by force. It is necessary to keep in mind that in 2012–2013, he became the godfather of more than 20 thieves.

Мераб Джангвеладзе (Мераб Сухумский)

Merab Dzhangveladze (Merab Sukhumsky)

Members of the Kutaisi clan Badri Koguashvili and Ramaz Dzneladze, who are expected to be released soon, could also reinforce the positions of Taro. It is unlikely though that they decide to oppose Shakro Molodoy who has reinstated their thieves’ status. 

It is also necessary to keep in mind that, in addition to well-known enemies, members of the Usoyan’s clan also have other adversaries who stand aside yet and don’t claim the supreme thieves’ throne – but still possess enough power to affect the situation. 

Most importantly, in order to become thief № 1, a contender must reside in Russia and be on the loose. Many of the above-mentioned ‘heavyweight’ thieves don’t meet these requirements. The Russian citizenship of Dzhangveladze was recognized illegal while he was in Italy. Shushanashvili was deprived of the Russian citizenship in 2005 (according to some information, in 2008). In theory, he may come to the country, but sources claim that as soon as Lasha crosses the border, he would be detained. Guli is on the wanted list and has been arrested in absentia in Russia on suspicion of extortion and abductions. 

Therefore, by the method of exclusion, Taro remains the only eligible candidate – provided that the Russian law enforcement authorities don’t decide to expel him. According to our source, Oniani is heading to the thieves’ Olympus and has a good chance to conquer it. If so, he is about to come into play in the near future.

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