Organised crime in the FSU and its Kazakh connections/II: the cases of Vladimir Tyurin and Merab Jangveladze

Mukhtar Ablyazov: Kazakhstan’s And Kyrgyzstan’s Own Guy Fawkes Once More At Large

A major shift in the upper echelons of the notorious post-Soviet Brothers’ Circle is currently taking place, after a number of its chief mobsters have been killed on behalf of rivals while others have been put behind bars and the rest seems to abandon its Russian home base. Two candidates for the succession of the organisation’s supreme leader have been tipped – and both of them appear to be Kazakhs. It could result in a more profound integration of Kazakhstan’s criminal world into the Circle – and thereby make it a lot more dangerous than it already is.

by Charles van der Leeuw, writer, news analyst

It reminds one a bit of the story of Richard III – “my kingdom for a horse” – as related by Shakespeare. The only difference is that the downfall of the House of York put an end to civil war, whereas the now vacant position of King of Crime in the former Soviet Union and the padrinos surrounding and supporting him might be the beginning of one. Following the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of Shakro Molodoy (Zakhariy Kalashov) on July 12 this year, his “inner circle” is thought to be making its way out of the territory of the Russian Federation, according to a report posted recently by the specialised newsreel CrimeRussia, based on information first spread by Rosbalt.

“Earlier it was reported that a long-term ally of Shakro Konstantin Manukyan (Kostya) disappeared and now, according to some information, he is in Armenia,” the report reads. “Within the framework of a criminal investigation against Kalashov investigators have questions to Manukyan, in connection with which Interpol wants him. After him thieves in law David Ozmanov (Dato Krasnodarsky), Nodari Asoyan (Nodar Rustavsky), Shalva Ozmanov (Kuso), Ara Muradyan (Ara Armavirsky) left Russia. All these people could be seen in the hotel complex Golden Palace, which is controlled by Manukyan, before Shakro Molodoy has been in a conflict with the law. Here, after the Kalashov’s return from the Spain, the main thieves’ office is located. According to some reports, Dato Krasnodarsky and Kuso conducted preliminary interviews with the thieves, who came to the main office for solving their matters.”

Extreme cruelty and ruthlessness

The succession of the kingpin could mean a shift from the Caucasus to Central Asia, in particular Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, in the ex-USSR’s criminal world’s spreme ranks. It is not so much the neutralisation of Kalashov but rather the power vacuum it leaves behind in the upper echelons of Russia’s criminal hierarchy, known as Brothers’ Circle (Bratskiy Krug) that worries state authorities in the former USSR – not in the least those of Kazakhstan. For as it happens, the two likely candidates to be “crowned” by their fellow padrinos for the job are Kazakh citizens (though of other ethnic adherence and born outside Kazakhstan) Merab Dzhangveladze nicknamed Merab Sukhumsky and Vladimir Tyurin alias Tyurik. Both are considered bitter adversaries by most observers. What they have in common, though, is a reputation for extreme cruelty and ruthlessness.

Dzhangveladze, also nicknamed Kaslandziya, was “crowned” at the age of 24 years, is considered to be responsible for tens if not hundreds of murders, including those of servants of the law, “non-compliant” businessmen but not in the least peers and rivals both inside and outside the Brothers’ Circle. Among them is Kalashov’s  predecessor Aslan Usoyan (Ded Hasan), a Kurdish adherent of the Muslim Yezid sect from Armenia, who was killed in January 2013 on the streets of Moscow by a sniper “… in a war between criminal clans” in the words of a report on the incident by Russia Today, and of the Azeri chief mobster Rovshan Dzhaniev (Rovshan Lenkoransky) who was murdered in Turkey little later allegedly because of a struggle for control over a large part of vegetable wholesale business in Moscow which was subsequently usurped by Dzhangveladze.

Russia: no criminal cases

In July 2013, Interpol held a large-scale operation to defeat the clan of Dzhangveladze in Europe at Italy’s request. During the operation, the main culprit and 18 of his associates were detained; however, only a few ended up in the dock. A year later, Bari court sentenced Dzhangveladze to 4 years and 8 months in prison for organising burglaries, extortion, money laundering, and use of false documents. Until recently, he was reported to be under house arrest in Italy as his jail term for extortion and money laundering was nearing its end. He is wanted in Kazakhstan for maintaining crime rings in the country which could bring him behind bars for another 20 years. He appears to have been released in Italy, but his current whereabouts are unknown.

Dzhangveladze has reputedly been hoping to obtain his Russian nationality back, by which he would be shielded against extradition by the tradition that no country extradites its own citizens. His chances look poor, since his Russian citizenship was withdrawn after it appeared that it had been based on a forged passport. There are, however, no criminal cases pending against him in the Russian Federation. While considering Kazakhstan too risky, the culprit might well seek to hide in one of the other Central Asian republics – depending on how he maintains his authority over chief mobsters over there.

In summer this year, the Russian news and research reel RuMafia published a provisional shortlist of companies in the Russian Federation belonging to Dzhangveladze, registered under proxy ownership of his brother Levan. They include thee publishing firm Fintrex, plastics manufacturer MCM Ltd., the printing company Amapollo, a stake in the car manufacturer Lada, the retail store chain Good Shop, the retail chain Furniture Exclusive and the plaza Trade town Cheryomushkiy. Since there are no open cases against either of the brothers, the property is being left untouched.

More enemies than friends

The trouble Dzhangveladze is facing in finding a secure operating base in the former USSR could be to the advantage of his longstanding rival Vladimir Tyurin alias Tyurik, who also holds a Kazakh passport though he was born in Bashkortostan (1958) where in the city of Bratsk he made furore as a youth ringleader in his teens engaging in poaching, extortion, gang rape during the period between 1975 and 1991 – known as the Great Stagnation in the USSR but also dubbed the Period of Nihilism, which brought him in jail as early as 1974 for the first time. He moved to Irkutsk as the end of the USSR drew nigh, where, however, he was to meet more enemies than friends among comrades in crime. Thanks to the protection of the “king” at the time Vyacheslav Ivankov alias Yaponsiy, though in prison at the time, he managed to join the top ranks of the local crime world.

Like Dzhangveladze, “Tyurik” has a particularly bloody trail behind him. Among his victims are a businessman from Bratsk, Igor Korchugov, murdered in 1998 in Moscow on Tyurik’s initiative probably with the aim to settle some accounts from his earlier years. Earlier, a padrino from Irkutsk. Alexander Moiseyev (Masya) was killed on June 10, 1991 after Tyurik had started to suspect that he had been selected as Ivankov’s successor. Response took some time but came in spring 1993,  when a hand grenade was thrown at Tyurik’s car, which bounced off and caused no damage. A second attempt consisting of an ambush by fake policemen, failed as well.

Very bad news for Kazakhstan

In 1994 Tyurik moved to Moscow. He bought a house in Spain. In June 1994 in Moscow Tyurik was crowned on Ivankov’s instruction. In April 2004, news about Tyurik came from St. Petersburg. This occurred after March 10, 2004, when Oleg Makovoz was arrested, born in 1968, a native of Irkutsk region, and candidate of the State Duma on the federal list of the People’s Party. But he also appeared to head a gang of racketeers and gunmen, responsible for dozens of murders in the region of Irkutsk where by now Tyurik was the unchallenged chief mobster. Among the most prominent victims was construction magnate but also criminal gang leader Konstantin Yakovlev alias Kosti Mogily, who was laundering billions of roubles each year through infrastructure construction works, including the prestigious flood protection network in St.-Petersburg. He was killed in May 2003, shortly after which Tyurik disappeared from the scene – supposedly hiding in Spain.

Tyurik was detained, though, on 2 November 2010 in Moscow, with a group of peers. Twelve people were charged, including the influential kingpin Zachary Kalashev, lawyer Alexander Gofshtein, a former adviser to President Boris Yeltsin Oleg Vorontsov. Only Zechariah Kalashov’s case made it to court, which convicted him to seven and a half years in prison and a fine of € 20 million. As for Tyurik, he waited under house arrest for his extradition to Spain, where he had been charged with leading a local racketeering gang and money laundering. The following year, though, Spain’s request was turned down after a Russian court had recognised the culprit’s Russian citizenship (in contrast to Dzhangveladze) even though he was (and in theory still is) formally a citizen of Kazakhstan since 1992 when he received a Kazakh passport in Almaty.

Many commentators now tip Tyurik as the next supreme chief of the Brothers’ Circle, if he successfully manages to defy Dzhangveladze. It means very bad news for Kazakhstan, which could soon find itself at the very heart of ex-USSR crime rings. The country’s strategic position between Russia and Afghanistan and the difficult task to control its vast but thinly populated territory offer favourable conditions to gangster organisations. Moreover, unlike places like Irkutsk Kazakhstan has not the highly sophisticated criminal hierarchy known in Russia. Local gangs can easily fall under control of much more powerful criminal organisations or perish in attempts to resist it. Both the authorities and the public should remain on the alerst under such a threat.

by Charles van der Leeuw, writer, news analyst