Time of Taro. Thief-in-law to regain former glory?
The release of authoritative thief-in-law Tariel Oniani (Taro) became a milestone event for the criminal world. The conflict with followers of Ded Khasan was put on hold for the duration of his almost 10-year-old prison term – the rival parties were waiting for the first steps of Taro. However, the law enforcement authorities decided to procrastinate the intrigue further and detained the crowned thief for 40 days immediately after his release. Still, taking that ‘thief № 1’ Shakro Molodoy is serving a prison term, his successor Shishkan keeps low profile, while other thieves-in-law are either abroad or disorganized, Taro has a chance to reassert himself as a serious power.
On Aril 9, 2019, everything was ready to welcome the leader of the ‘Kutaisi’ clan – Tariel Oniani (Taro) – in Turkey. On that day, he was released from the Maximum Security Penal Colony № 6 located in the Orenburg region and known as ‘Black Dolphin’.
Back in summer, Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Minister of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, signed an order declaring the thief-in-law an undesirable person in Russia. Therefore, Oniani had planned to fly to Georgia immediately after the release, and then – to Turkey, which is loyal to crowned thieves and serves as an asylum for many of them. Aleksander Kobaidze, a defense attorney for another thief-in-law – Mindia Goradze (Lavasogly Batumsky) – has shared the plans of Oniani with the media.
A similar story occurred with crowned thief Nadir Salifov (Guli): after being released from an Azerbaijani prison in 2017 and having only a Soviet passport on hand, he managed to enter his home country – Georgia – and departed from there to Istanbul in less than 24 hours.
But Oniani was unable to flee Russia smoothly – immediately after his release, Tariel Mulukhov (Taro changed the last name after receiving a Russian passport) was detained as a person without citizenship on the basis of an international warrant issued against him.
According to Rosbalt.ru, in 2010, the Federal Migration Service of Russia has recognized illegal the Russian citizenship of Oniani. It became known that Taro has got a Russian passport in 2006 on the basis of his residential registration in Tatarstan as of February 6, 1992 (according to the law, persons who had resided in the Russian Federation on that day are entitled to the Russian citizenship regardless of their place of birth). However, a probe has established that the residential registration of Oniani in the Bugulma district, Tatar Soviet Socialist Republic, was entered in the household register retroactively. Therefore, the Federal Migration Service concluded that Taro has illegally obtained Russian citizenship.
Oniani could be deported to his native country – Georgia. Recently, it became known that he is registered as a voter in a Georgian village in Kvemo Kartli province – i.e. has Georgian citizenship. Anna Mikeladze, Speaker of the Central Election Commission, was unable to comment on his presence on the voting list and said that the data on the voters are provided by other governmental structures.
Rumors had circulated that the Russian law enforcement authorities may also decide to keep Taro in Russia – allegedly, as a counter to ‘thief № 1’ Zakhary Kalashov (Shakro Molodoy).
Officially, this post is currently held by Oleg Shishkanov (Shishkan) – but he has been keeping low profile for a year already. Last year, Kalashov was escorted to a penal colony in the Krasnodar krai to serve his nearly 10-year-long term. Some experts believe that Shakro Molodoy would be able to control the situation from there. In that case, Oniani, who pretends to be ‘the boss of all bosses’, won’t be able to stand on the sidelines.
According to a source of Rosbalt.ru, Taro had already liaised with law enforcement structures in the past. For instance, in 2003, he had assisted Russian operatives in the release of UN officers captured in Kodori Valley, Abkhazia. Furthermore, after fleeing from the European justice in 2006, Oniani has easily obtained Russian citizenship – and his departure to Spain was out of the question.
Information about his contacts with the Russian and other authorities had repeatedly popped up in the past. According to the Ukrainian media, during the Rose Revolution (end of 2003 – beginning of 2004), Taro had visited Georgia together with Timur Alasania, uncle of Mikheil Saakashvili, and some Mikhail Surguladze, supposedly, an agent of the British secret services, to help the young politician to reinforce his positions. Oniani could also assist in the neutralization of Mishiko’s enemies, including Badri Patarkatsishvili. To refresh background: in 2008, Patarkatsishvili was found dead in his London home. A heart seizure was named the official cause of his death.
According to REGNUM News Agency, businessman Bondo Shalikiani, who was hiding in Moscow after the change of power in Georgia, claimed that, in 2003, Oniani had forced him to transfer $500 thousand to accounts controlled by Saakashvili.
Aleksander Litvinenko, a former officer of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation, who has defected to the UK, used to be a Deputy Head of the 7th Department responsible for combating the organized crime. According to Litvinenko, he had arrested Oniani once – but his FSB boss ordered to release the crowned thief. In addition, Taro reportedly had very good relations with the group covering up Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.
In any event, all the past arrangements are now null and void: last week, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Russia has announced that, on May 19, Taro will be extradited to Spain where he is charged with money laundering and creation of a criminal community.
Since the 1990s, Oniani had lived abroad – initially, in France and then in Spain where he had a joint shady business with Shakro Molodoy. In June 2015, in the course of Operation Avispa, the Spanish law enforcement authorities have detained 28 members of a criminal community consisting of Spanish, Russian, Georgian, and Ukrainian natives. Over 400 police officers, supported by armored troop carriers and helicopters, have searched some 50 premises in various Spanish cities. At that time, Oniani managed to escape and returned to Russia – while Spain issued an international warrant against him.
In June 2009, the thief-in-law was arrested in Moscow and charged with abduction of a businessman. The man was forcibly taken to a restaurant, cruelly beaten with a baseball bat as per Oniani’s order, and kept for three days in an apartment. The kidnappers had demanded $500 thousand from victim’s relatives for his release. After receiving $218 thousand, the suspects released the businessman. Later Taro and his accomplice started demanding the relatives to pay the ransom balance – and the family of the businessman addressed the police. In July 2010, the Khamovnichesky District Court of Moscow sentenced the crowned thief to 10 years behind bars. Taking the time spent in detention during the investigation, Taro was supposed to regain liberty in June 2019. However, he appealed the sentence and managed to reduce the prison term to 9 years and 10 months.
In 2011, Oniani was escorted to Spain to carry out investigative actions in the framework of the ‘Russian mafia’ case. However, according to the Spanish media, the thief-in-law refused to collaborate and was returned to Moscow.
In accordance with the Spanish criminal legislation, the period of limitation for crimes punishable by 5 to 10 years behind bars is 10 years. Shakro Molodoy was sentenced in Spain to 9 years for the same offenses (his initial term was 7.5 years, but then it was increased). But in the case of Oniani, the period of limitation is terminated if a criminal case is instituted against him. The new period of limitation begins when the criminal case is closed or dismissed without a sentence. The current status of the criminal case initiated against Taro in Spain is unknown – as well as the severity of charges laid against him. The Spanish authorities expressed no reaction to the possible extradition of the criminal wanted by them since 2005. On the other hand, Oniani was optimistic at the recent court session and promised to "prove his innocence to the Spaniards and return to Russia soon".
However, the whereabouts and status of Taro are not really important – because the powers of his main opponent, Shakro Molodoy, are currently limited as well. The main question is: are the two criminal heavyweights going to openly oppose each other or not? As said above, they used to be partners and friends, and their enmity was inherited from Ded Khasan.
In fact, the conflict between Oniani and Usoyan was unwittingly provoked by Shakro. After his arrest by the Spanish authorities, Taro had expected to be put in charge of the financial flows. However, Ded Khasan decided otherwise and appointed Lasha Rustavsky to administer the business empire built with the assistance of other prominent criminals. Of course, Oniani was displeased by this decision – he did not want to lose hundreds of millions of dollars invested into the foreign real estate.
Taro returned to Russia – and the war escalated in full force. The CrimeRussia wrote earlier about its implications. All thieves-in-law had divided into two groups: supporters of Taro and followers of Ded Khasan. The both parties sustained heavy casualties. Ultimately, Taro ended up behind bars, while Ded Khasan was killed in 2013.
Interestingly, Kalashov managed to abstain from active participation in this lengthy conflict – being locked up in a Spanish jail, he hasn’t even signed the circular letter stripping Taro of the thieves’ status in 2009. More than 30 crowned thieves had signed that letter at the instigation of Ded Khasan.
After the death of the criminal ‘patriarch’ and imprisonment of Taro, there was no reason to continue the war. Shakro Molodoy definitely did not want to resume it after his return to Russia in 2014; he has even reinstated the thieves’ titles of two allies of Taro – Badri Koguashvili (Badri Kutaissky) and Ramaz Dzneladze (Ramaz Kutaissky) – lost because of intrigues.
However, in addition to the personal motives and ambitions, thieves’ actions are guided by their ‘code’ – and Taro must hold all his offenders (i.e. willing and unwilling signatories to that circular letter) to account.
As soon as Taro comes to Turkey, he will gather a large congregation to discuss inter alia this matter.
In 2015, after the death of Ded Khasan, the status of Oniani was discussed at a mass congregation held in Armenia. At that time, Kalashov suggested to wait for the release of Taro to enable all signatories to the circular letter to air their grievances to him in person and then make the final decision on his status. But now the situation has changed: Shakro Molodoy is serving a lengthy prison term, and Oniani is going to take the lead at the forthcoming congregation.
It is not necessary to unleash dire revenge on all the signatories. Taro may offer them to explain their actions and repent in public. Many of them would likely do so claiming that they could not say no to Ded Khasan 10 years ago or that their signatures were affixed without their consent.
In fact, the status of Taro was restored back in 2011. Almost 30 people who had supported him in that difficult period – when Ded Khasan was still alive – will definitely back his case now, too. After the arrival of Taro to a Kemerovo penal colony, a circular letter was received there stating that he is a thief and must be treated accordingly, while all issues arising in the thieves’ family are to be settled between the thieves, without the involvement of bros and using them as cannon fodder. The letter was signed by Merab Sukhumsky, Timokha Gomelsky, Tsripa, Antik (Kukhilava), Giya Svan, Akhmed Sutuly, Bakha-Bakha, Tengo Potiisky, Irakly Khutu, etc.
Antimoz Kukhilava (on the right) with son
Badri Kutaissky was not afraid to show his disagreement with Ded Khasan with regards to Taro – and paid dearly for that: in 2011, he was decrowned at the instigation of Usoyan. However, after spending seven years in ‘red’ penal colonies of the Krasnoyarsk krai, he became even more respected by thieves belonging to both rival groups. After his release in 2018, Badri Kutaissky received congratulations from Merab Sukhumsky, members of the ‘Greek’ clan currently led by Lasha Shushanashvili, prominent Slavic thieves, including Aleksei Petrov (Petrik), Sergei Aksenov (Aksen), Mikhail Voevodin (Misha Luzhnetsky), and Shakro Molodoy’s deputy Oleg Shishkanov (Shishkan), as well as Kakha Galsky, Elgudzha Turkadze (Gudzha Kutaissky), Gurama Chikhladze (Kvezhoevich), and Eduard Asatryan (Edik Osetrina).
Some 20 people owing Taro for their crowning at the well-known congregation in Dubai are also expected to support him.
All these persons were in disgrace for a long time and should drastically increase their activity now. A congregation held by Taro’s supporters in Turkey in early April confirms this – contrary to the moratorium imposed by Shakro Molodoy in 2015, a new thief was crowned there. This milestone event caused completely different reactions in the rival camps.
The congregation initiated by thief-in-law Temuri Nemsitsveridze (Tsripa) and chaired by David Chkhikvishvili (Dato Surgutsky) was attended by 15 crowned thieves, including Roman Dzhafarov (Romik Kurd), Teimuraz Churadze (Aleko), Lasha Dogonadze (Lasha Pitersky), Vladimir Dzotsenidze (Valera Kutaissky), Gocha Dzhincharadze (Kursha), etc. Dozens of other thieves-in-law had participated in the congregation remotely – via cell phones and the Internet. As a result, Uzbekistan native Akhtam Yakubov (Akhtam Samarkandsky) was proclaimed a thief. Yakubov is a close friend of Ravshan Mukhiddinov (Ravshan Zolotoy) – who, in turn, is a nephew of Gafur Rakhimov (Gafur Cherny), a member of the ‘Brothers’ Circle’.
According to one of the warring factions, the majority of crowned thieves have disapproved the new coronation. According to the other party, the thieves’ world welcomed it, and even Shakro Molodoy approved it “on an exceptional basis”. In fact, this is not the first breach of the moratorium on new coronations imposed by Kalashov. Vazha Biganishvili (Vazha Tbilissky) had earlier initiated the crowning of Soso Goriisky (Sokrat) in Cyprus – and nobody has expressed any displeasure to Vazha. It is safe to assume that the number of such coronations is going to grow. The clans, especially those operating outside Russia, need fresh blood. Taro needs more loyal thieves than anybody else – so, the process is gaining traction and moratoriums are unable to stop it.
In addition to the support among the thieves, such a respectable figure as Oniani needs the support of the business elite. His old friend, well-known Moscow restaurant keeper Gela Tsertsvadze, had impatiently waited for the release of Taro. Tsertsvadze never was a member of the ‘Kutaisi’ criminal clan and always posed as a bona fide and law-abiding businessman. However, in the late 1990s, he has established, jointly with Taro’s brother David Oniani, Absolyut-Shans company. In 2006, after the return of Taro to Russia, Tsertsvadze has established jointly with him EkspressTreid Closed Joint Stock Company trading oil, ore, metals, and other chemicals.
Tsertsvadze became the first victim in the Taro’s party during the war with Ded Khasan. In November 2008, an assassination attempt was committed against him in the Matveevskoe district of Moscow. A killer gunned Gela down with a Kalashnikov submachine gun at the exit from a building on Veernaya street and fled the scene in a Skoda Octavia. Tsertsvadze was severely wounded in the abdomen and chest and became confined to a wheelchair for life.
After the arrest of Taro in 2009, EkspressTreid was closed, and Tsertsvadze returned to the restaurant and hotel business. His catering empire – GG Group – includes numerous restaurants in Moscow and prestigious locations of the metropolitan area specializing mostly in the Georgian cousin. One of these restaurants, Marani, is located in Zhukovka village and favored by many thieves-in-law.
Gela Tsertsvadze (sitting)
In June 2017, crowned thieves Kakha Galsky and Elgudzha Turkadze (Gudzha Kutaissky) were detained there during a meeting with criminal leaders of Novosibirsk – Pavel Brusentsev (Pasha Besheny) and Ruslan Slyusar’. According to some information, the purpose of that meeting was to appoint Pasha Besheny the overseer of the Novosibirsk region.
In September 2018, Eduard Asatryan (Edik Osetrina) had celebrated his 50th jubilee in Marani Restaurant. The party was attended by many prominent criminals, including Shishkan, Kakha Galsky, Badri Kutaissky, Sopotia, Nika Izrailsky, Aiko Astrakhansky, etc.
In May 2011, Tsertsvadze was accidentally caught in a bind – a small thieves’ congregation was held in Khinkal’naya Glamour Cafe on Neglinnaya street belonging to him. The restaurant owner had a meeting with two crowned thieves – Badri Kutaissky and Petrik (Suvorov). As of a sudden, SWAT troopers have stormed into the establishment, and a small sachet full of white powder was found in the pocket of the Georgian thief. Later, the powder was identified as heroin.
Another story occurred with Gela Tsertsvadze during the preparations to the Sochi Olympics. In May 2007, he has established Sochiplaza company; two months later, another company with a similar name – Sochi-Plaza – was founded. The legal address of the second company coincided with Hotel Moskva – it was planned to reconstruct it and transform into luxurious Courtyard by Marriott Sochi Plaza Hotel for the winter Olympics. One of the founders of Sochi-Plaza was Combrink Property Holding Inc. offshore company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands and affiliated with Magomed Bilalov – shareholder of Krasnaya Polyana Open Joint Stock Company, co-owner of Natsbiznesbank, and brother of Akhmed Bilalov, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Northern Caucasus Resorts later dismissed for the disruption of construction deadlines of the Olympic ski-ramp complex.
In 2013, both brothers have been charged with financial violations committed during the construction of Olympic facilities in Sochi. A probe was launched in relation to the misappropriation of 45.5 million rubles ($713.4 thousand) received as interest on funds allocated to Krasnaya Polyana by Sberbank for the construction of sports facilities and deposited in Natsbiznesbank. Brothers Balilov decided not to wait for the end of the investigation and fled Russia.
In the meantime, the hotel reconstruction – supposed to be completed in December 2013 – was delayed. Two weeks before the start of the Sochi Olympics, it became clear that it won’t be able to accommodate the guests. In June 2014, Olimpstroy corporation has filed a lawsuit with the Arbitration Court of the Krasnodar Krai to collect over 100 million rubles ($1.6 million) from Sochi-Plaza Limited Liability Company for the disruption of construction deadlines.
The purpose and operations of Sochiplaza Limited Liability Company established by Tsertsvadze (in early 2019, it was excluded from the Consolidated State Registry of Legal Entities as a non-operating legal entity) remain unknown.
Still, the positions of Tsertsvadze are pretty strong in Moscow. While Taro was serving his term, Tsertsvadze managed to establish ties not only with the former city management team led by Yuri Luzhkov – but with the current one as well. For instance, the wedding of his son Tornike Tsertsvadze and the daughter of Mikhail Turetsky, artistic director of the choir of the same name, in 2017 was attended by Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky, Mikhail Borshchevsky, Plenipotentiary Representative in the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court, and Higher Arbitration Court of the Russian Federation, and astronaut Aleksei Leonov. Andrei Malakhov hosted the party, while singers Iosif Kobzon and Nikolai Baskov congratulated the newlyweds. Interestingly, Turetskaya and Tsertsvadze were introduced to each other by their common friend Yuri Mamiashvili, a nephew of Mikhail Mamiashvili, President of the Russian Wrestling Federation. In that period, Yuri Mamiashvili had dated the daughter of thief-in-law Valery Sigaladze (Valera Sukhumsky) who died in 2016.
Wedding of Tornike Tsertsvadze and Sarina Turetskaya
The children of Taro are true members of the new Russian elite. The media already wrote about the beautiful daughter of Oniani – Gvantsa. The 26-year-old ‘criminal princess’ lives in Moscow but frequently travels all over the world giving preference to Greek resorts, Monaco, and father’s native land – Georgia. According to our sources, a few years ago, she has graduated from a prestigious university in London.
Taro’s 25-year-old son Buba is a businessman. A few years ago, he has founded TD Smolneft specializing in wholesale trade of solid, liquid, and gas fuels. In the first year of its existence, the company has generated a decent profit of 8 million rubles ($125.4 thousand). Buba has graduated from Cass Business School in London recognized one of the top ten business schools of the UK.
According to his Facebook page, Buba is a fan of FC Barcelona – perhaps, this is because the young businessman has spent his childhood in that city? Domestic TV series Brigade is named among his favorite movies, which is not surprising.
Interestingly, Buba Oniani has common friends with Ivan Shishkanov, the son of Shishkan. In fact, they have much in common, including connections in the Russian-speaking community of London and criminal status of their fathers.
Representatives of the ‘gilded youth' often become involved in various incidents, and Buba is not an exception.
In 2015, in the middle of the night, his deluxe Mercedes S400 moving at a great pace along Novy Arbat street hit a Volkswagen Touareg moving in the same direction. The SUV lost control, hit other cars, and ended up on the sidewalk. The Mercedes driven by Oniani was thrown to the other side of the road and hit the fencing of an underground passage. His 18-year-old passenger was admitted to hospital with a craniocerebral injury and hip dislocation. Two other Buba’s friends, 19-year-old Georgy Ts. and 17-year-old David Kh., were injured as well. The driver of Volkswagen had to seek medical aid, too – his nose was busted.
Overall, it is safe to say that Taro, regardless of his whereabouts, is a ‘brand’ able to pull together many thieves having, for various reasons, conflicts with the current system created by Shakro Molodoy in the recent years.
Eduard Asatryan with son
Take, for instance, Asatryan whose ascension to the heights of the criminal world was severely compromised by the recent decrowning of his son Sergei Asatryan (Serezha Bentley). Asatryan junior was stripped of the thieves’ status in January 2018 – after his conviction to 9 years behind bars and convoying to the pretrial detention center of Nizhny Novgorod. A circular letter was sent there stating that Bentley must not be considered a thief-in-law; it was signed by such authoritative thieves as Vasya Voskres, Miron, Caesar, Valera Tbilissky, Gela, Gogi Pitersky, Matsi, and Shalvovich. In addition, the unbounded ambitions of Asatryan cause numerous conflicts with other crowned thieves. In the last years, he had waged a war on two fronts: with Kakha Galsky and Vasya Voskres in Moscow and with thief-in-law Nodari Asoyan (Nodar Rustavsky) in southern Russia.
Shakro Molodoy has decided the fate of Akhmed Sutuly currently held in a pretrial detention facility by finding a compromise: Sutuly retains the thieves’ status for the duration of his term – but after his release, the matter is to be reexamined again. No doubt that Sutuly would like to have more certainty with regards to his destiny.
Thieves operating in Ukraine and lately experiencing increasing pressure from Guli – Antimoz Kukhilava, Lasha Svan, Irakly Khutu, Lavasogly Batumsky, etc. – may also seek the support of Oniani under the current circumstances.
The recent changes in the criminal world create a favorable situation for Taro. The conviction of Shakro Molodoy, large prison term faced by Pichuga, arrest of Kakha Galsky in Moscow, capture of Lasha Rustavsky in Greece, sentence delivered to Gela Galsky in Belarus, death of Vladimir Vagin (Vagon), forthcoming release of Akhmed Dombaev (Shalinsky) who would likely become the leader of the Chechen thieves’ diaspora, displeasure of many thieves with the appointment of Shishkan the successor to Kalashov, tension in the thieves’ world caused by the new law increasing the punishment for organizers and participants of congregations and persons holding supreme posts in the criminal hierarchy, exodus or some thieves-in-law – Oleg Pirogov (Tsirkach), Ramaz Dzneladze (Ramaz Kutaissky), Guram Chikhladze (Kvezhoevich), Georgy Kalashan (Kotik Mladshy), and Ruslan Grechkori (Shlyapa Mladshy) – from Russia, problems with the Turkish authorities currently experienced by Guli and his relocation to the United Arab Emirates – all these factors may enable Taro to seize the initiative from Shakro Molodoy or even replace him on the top of the criminal Olympus.