As quiet as a grave: Ways of extorting money from businessmen 

As quiet as a grave: Ways of extorting money from businessmen
Photo: Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

In early June, a story about businessman Hikmet Salaev, who was buried alive for refusing to give his extortionist partners 30 million rubles, made a lot of noise. Such extreme ways of extortion today are rare. However, businessmen are still subjected to extortions, just as in the turbulent 90s, and criminals these days are using various and sophisticated methods to do this.

As quiet as a grave

On June 6, information on what businessman Hikmet Salaev had to experience became public. According to the media, the businessman's companions demanded 30 million rubles from him ($500.000). When the entrepreneur refused to give the money, the attackers buried him in the Lyubertsy Cemetery giving him only a mobile phone.

Salayev was able to get through to his younger brother Ismail, who brought 1.2 million rubles ($17.300) to the kidnappers and gave them his BMW of the fifth series. After that, the businessman’s partners showed him where he was buried. Eventually, Salaev was rescued and hospitalized with broken ribs.

This story in the spirit of the 90's got another twist on June 20. The Russian MIA press service reported that the contractor of the extortion is the thief in law Gulu, who is currently serving a sentence in Azerbaijan. According to the agency, five more people were involved in the crime: two were detained in Moscow, the third one in Dagestan, two more were placed on the international wanted list.

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Hikmet Salaev

The information agency Prime Crime calls the thief in law Guli, not Gulu. It is reported that 44-year-old Salifov Nadir Nariman oglu, an Azerbaijani citizen, is known under this nickname in the criminal world. He was “crowned” in 2000 at the age of 27. According to Viktoria Gefter, the editor of the publication, Guli is absolutely recognized as the number one Azerbaijani thief. So the problems of Hikmet Salaev turned out to be really serious, but how exactly the businessman annoyed the mafia boss is unknown: information about the activities of the entrepreneur is not public.

Catching via social networks

"In terms of racketeering and pressure on entrepreneurs, nothing new has been invented in comparison with the 90's. Pressure is exercised either physically or psychologically. In the first case, intruders abduct victims and deprive them of their freedom of movement, they torture and beat them. I remember there was a case where an entrepreneur was hung upside down to a chandelier and tortured. If we talk about psychological pressure, threats to a businessman himself, his family or relatives are used, " says Doctor of Law Lev Bertovsky, a criminalist expert.

According to the expert, the main innovation in the arsenal of the modern racketeers is the Internet: with the help of network communications, entrepreneurs are often threatened online. In addition, bandits carefully study the property of the future victim before starting active operations, sometimes attackers hire hackers for these purposes. The latter hack specialized servers with databases (sometimes even state organizations) that have information about the property of specific people.

"When someone seriously wants to get hold of money belonging to a person by criminal means, all means are used, up to the study of social networks, which often helps to estimate the future victim’s wealth. Many people like to show their luxurious life on the Internet: holidays by the sea, yachts, diamonds and so on. Besides, on social networks, racketeers, if they put effort, can get access to the correspondence of the people they are interested in, get information about their families and close relatives," explains a source of Lenta.ru.

According to Lev Bertovsky, extortionists’ arsenal since the 90's has not diminished and just the scale of extortions decreased. These days businessmen are not blown up, and tightly built mobsters do not "nightmarize" them regularly. Criminals now work less clumsily.

"Nowadays, the preparation for extortion takes more time than the active phase of the crime. Bandits try to avoid extremely brutal options like putting severed limbs at the doors. However, Russia is a large country, and what one will not find in Moscow, can still be a working method in the regions," concludes the expert.

Kings of blackmailing

"Since the 1990s, there has been little left in the arsenal of racketeers and extortionists, except for threats of murder (of course, it rarely gets to actual killings), destruction of property and infliction of injuries up to cutting of fingers. Mostly, threats are sent in letters. There are cases of kidnapping of both entrepreneurs and their children, wives and even mistresses. In general, criminals’ methods of exerting pressure on businessmen have become more up to date and sophisticated. If back in the days, money was wheedled out of entrepreneurs by people of a small mind and good physical form, now these people are educated and even intelligent. Perhaps, their main weapon is blackmailing. There are several ways to blackmail businessmen. Compromising materials are used: photographs, video recordings and other similar evidence gathered against a husband, wife and children," says Anatoly Kustov, a professor of criminalistics.

According to the expert, another common method of blackmailing involves threats of prosecution. In this scheme, criminals get in contact with corrupt law enforcement officers, who, in turn, initiate criminal cases against certain people. The case can be initiated not only against the businessman himself, but also against his wife or children.

"Blackmailing related to the victim’s use of drugs, mistress or property abroad in the context of tax evasion is very common. They might threat to disclose the information about accounts in foreign banks," says the source of Lenta.ru.

According to Anatoly Kustov, today there are often cases of blackmailing with the help of fake contracts. This is how it goes: the criminals make an agreement with the victim's competitors and draft a falsified contract allegedly signed by the object of blackmail, which is then used.

Looking for dirt

"In the 90s, extortionists and racketeers were very specific people who could be identified or caught by the hand. The development of technology has led to the fact that today one delinquent person can instantly extort money and exert pressure on ten people with the help of at least two hundred auxiliary resources. Muscles are no longer needed," explains Dmitry Rusakov, the head of Brand Protection at Group-IB.

According to him, there are cases when businessmen are subjected to pressure by the use of fake accounts on social networks. They are created allegedly on behalf of the victim, after which the attackers begin to send messages of questionable content, of an intimate or negative character, which is then used as a tool of pressure. Sometimes correspondence is supplemented with publications of indecent information or insulting statements about someone, which becomes a particularly sensitive blow for a public person.

"Hacking can be especially effective if criminals get not fictional, but quite real compromising information that the user has not removed from his device. However, recently the system of pressure and extortion, not connected with hacking, has become more active. There are "yellow" websites that specialize in leaking compromising materials (sometimes regional media do that). They receive an order for a person, or they take the initiative themselves and begin a focused work on the victim. The administration of such resources regularly publishes negative materials until the victim does not address the issue. Then he will be sent a price tag. The perpetrators mask their illegal activities quite simply: they do not go to the victim first, but wait for the moment when he comes to them himself," concludes Dmitry Rusakov.

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