Alleged mob chief lands in Russia

Deported man arrested on arrival in Moscow

July 15, 2004|By Douglas Birch | Douglas Birch,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

MOSCOW - The reputed former chief of the Russian mob in America was flown to Moscow early yesterday, arrested by Russian special forces at the airport and taken to the same pre-trial detention facility where billionaire Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky is being held, Russian television reported.

Vycheslav K. Ivankov, 64, who is known here as "Yaponchik," or "Little Japanese," was released Tuesday from a federal prison in Pennsylvania after serving a 9 1/2 -year sentence on extortion charges.

He was deported to Russia, where he was wanted in connection with the 1992 shooting of three Turkish nationals in a Moscow restaurant after an argument. Two of the men died.

His case was seen by American law-enforcement officials as a test of Russia's ability to prosecute prominent organized crime figures, who acted with impunity here in the early 1990s - when mob wars left scores of people dead.

The tattooed Ivankov is a reputed vor-e-zakon, or thief-in-law, a godfather in the world of Russian prisons and organized crime. In 1996, he was convicted in a Brooklyn, N.Y., federal court of attempting to extort $3.5 million from two Russian emigres who ran an investment firm.

Russian media reported that Ivankov was taken to Matrosskaya Tishina prison in eastern Moscow.

It's the same prison where Khodorkovsky, the former chief executive of Yukos Oil, has been held on fraud and tax evasion charges since his arrest last October.

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