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Mogilevich: FBI behind Russia scandal

MOSCOW, Sept. 1 -- Alleged Russian mob kingpin Semyon Mogilevich, who has been linked to the still-unfolding Russian money laundering scandal first reported last week by the New York Times and USA Today, claims the FBI is behind the scandal. In an interview with the Moscow daily newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, Mogilevich makes the claim that 'all charges of 'laundering' money, drug trafficking, control of prostitution, organized hits' made against him are 'wild ravings, delirium of the FBI, which is trying to get additional funds from Congress to fight the 'Russian Mafia.'' Mogilevich, an Israeli citizen living in Budapest, Hungary, dismissed the figure of $15 billion mentioned in one money-laundering report, and said he is not involved in money laundering at all. 'I can admit to one incident, when I washed a $5 dollar note, not noticing that it was in a pocket. So you could say I laundered money.' Regarding the $15 billion, Mogilevich said: 'This is nonsense. Russia doesn't have this kind of money.' 'If you take all the oil produced in Russia and sell everything, without returning a cent to the country, this will total $15 billion. But where is the rest?' Mogilevich, who denies any links to organized crime, says the FBI had repeatedly asked Hungarian secret services why they couldn't arrest him. He said the Hungarians replied that they would if they were provided with any evidence. Mogilevich ended the interview by saying, 'Surely a single Jew from Kiev isn't stronger and more cunning than all the secret services in the world?' But Western security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, say Mogilevich himself may believe the answer to his question was 'Yes.'

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In a controversial article published in New York's Village Voice on May 22, 1998, respected American investigative journalist Robert Friedman described Mogilevich as 'the most dangerous mobster in the world.' Citing what he described as 'hundreds of pages of classified FBI and Israeli intelligence documents,' Friedman reported extensive allegations in those reports that Mogilevich was a prominent trafficker 'in nuclear materials, drugs, prostitutes, precious gems and stolen art.' Other allegations claimed that he controlled virtually all the illicit traffic in and out of Moscow's main Sheremetyevo International Airport; that his enforcers had tortured kidnapped businessmen to death in two villas outside Prague, the capital of the Czech republic; that he controlled major prostitution rings throughout Eastern Europe; and that he had even bought a bankrupt airline in a former Soviet Republic in Central Asia in order to use it to smuggle huge quantities heroin out of the Golden Triangle region of southeast Asia. Mogelivich, Friedman wrote, also allegedly sold $20 million worth of stolen former Warsaw Pact weapons to Iran, including surface-to-air missiles and 12 armored troop carriers. He was, Friedman wrote, the legal owner of much of Hungary's massive arms industry. Companies legally owned by Mogilevich, Friedman wrote, included Magnex 2000, a giant magnet manufacturer; Digep General Machine Works, which makes artillery and mortar shells; and Army Co-op, which makes mortars and anti-aircraft guns. After Friedman's article appeared in Village Voice, the FBI intercepted reports that a $100,000 contract had been taken out to assassinate him, the New York Times reported. It is known that Mogilevich has an economics degree from the University of Lvov. In the past, he has shunned publicity. But in Moscow, his name is almost universally known. Among knowledgeable Russian and Western analysts alike, his name inspires caution, respect and even great fear. There have also been allegations that Mogilevich has sought to win influence with prominent Republican politicians in the United States and with leaders in Israel. Friedman noted that in April 1998, the German national television network ZDF reported that the BND, the German federal intelligence service, had made a secret deal with Mogilevich in which he would give them information on other prominent Russian mobsters. Following a British police organized crime probe, the British government of Prime Minister John Major on Aug. 10, 1995, issued an order barring Mogilevich from entering the United Kingdom. However, he has never been prosecuted in Britain. ---

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Copyright 1999 by United Press International. All rights reserved. ---

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