Tag: Russian Banker
Police ask Moscow for DNA samples of Vitalie Proca, prime suspect in the gangland hit against Russian banker German GorbuntsovMoldovan gun-for-hire linked to shooting of businessman who fled to London
Detectives investigating the near-fatal shooting of a Russian banker in London will ask Moscow for DNA samples from a suspected gangland hitman identified as the prime suspect for the attack.
German Gorbuntsov lapsed into a coma and spent months in hospital after he was shot six times by a lone gunman in March last year. The 46-year-old claimed the assassination attempt, as he arrived at his rented flat in London’s Docklands, was ordered by his former business partners.
Police recovered a full DNA sample from the crime scene. A gun, a hooded top and a bag were found dumped near the apartment in Byng Street, on the Isle of Dogs. There was no forensic match on British databases so the information was circulated across Europe to try to identify the suspect.
Last month, Russian police said they believed they had arrested the man behind the mafia-style hit after an international arrest warrant was requested by Romanian police over a separate shooting in Bucharest. The suspected Moldovan gun-for-hire, Vitalie Proca, had fled to Moscow and the Romanians are now seeking his extradition.
The Metropolitan Police also want to speak to Mr Proca. His extradition to Romania would improve the chances of him being questioned about the Gorbuntsov shooting. Scotland Yard detectives are keeping an open mind about who ordered the hit.
The Met has a good track record of working with the Romanian police force, which sent officers to London for three months last year to help identify criminal groups during the Olympics.
It is thought that any prospect of Mr Proca being brought to Britain would depend on what happens in any criminal case in Romania if his extradition to Bucharest is secured. The request to Moscow comes at a sensitive time, amid speculation about the recent death of the oligarch Boris Berezovsky and the upcoming inquest into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, the former Russian secret service officer poisoned in London in 2006. Detective Chief Inspector Russell Taylor, who is leading the Gorbuntsov investigation, said: “I’m hopeful that they [the Russians] will accede to our request but it’s very early days. I don’t know what their views are going to be.”
The suspect’s mother-in-law has gone on Romanian television to protest his innocence. She also claimed that he had never been to Britain. The naming of Mr Proca raises the prospect that London has become a battleground, with European crime gangs used to recruit guns-for-hire to sort out disputes that originate in Russia. It is understood that Scotland Yard has assessed the threat posed to Russian nationals living in London.
Romanian media reports suggest that Mr Proca served 12 years in prison for murdering two people during a Christmas Day burglary in Moldova but was freed in 2010. After his release, he obtained a passport and frequently travelled in and out of his home country.
He is said to have returned there just three days after the attempt on Mr Gorbuntsov’s life in London.
Moldovan media said he was accused of attempting to kill a gangland rival of two brothers for €20,000 (£16,900). However, a man with a similar car to the supposed target was shot and seriously wounded.
Mr Gorbuntsov, who is now out of hospital and living at a secret address, has previously asked the Russians to hand over documents to Britain that might help lead to his attackers. “I ask the authorities to be honest and to investigate what happened in a fair way,” he told The Independent last year. “I want them to question me quickly, and hand over documents to Britain quickly.”
The banker believes he was attacked because he was preparing to give evidence to Russian prosecutors about a botched assassination attempt on his ex-business partner Alexander Antonov. Mr Antonov, the father of Vladimir Antonov, a former owner of Portsmouth Football Club, was shot in Moscow in 2009 but survived.
Mr Gorbuntsov’s lawyer has said Mr Proca resembles the man captured on CCTV cameras and suspected of involvement in the shooting.
The arrested man, 33-year-old Moldovan citizen Vitali Proca, was wanted in connection with a murder in Romania last November, but is also the suspected gunman in the attack on banker German Gorbuntsov in East London last March.
According to a statement from the Russian Interior Ministry, the arrest took place in Moscow on Wednesday, and the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda showed leaked footage of a man in a white shell-suit top being handcuffed and questioned by police.
“It certainly looks like the man that was captured on camera and suspected of being involved,” said Vadim Vedenin, Mr Gorbuntsov’s Moscow-based lawyer last night. He said Mr Gorbuntsov himself would be unable to identify the assailant as he had not seen him clearly.
Mr Gorbuntsov was shot six times in the stomach as he entered a serviced apartment in the Isle of Dogs. The attack, which raised concerns that Russian businessmen were bringing their turf wars and disputes over dubious money onto the streets of London, put him in a coma but he survived. The banker spent several months under armed guard in a London hospital, but was recently discharged. Mr Vedenin confirmed that Mr Gorbuntsov is now out of hospital and living in a secret location in the UK.
In an interview with The Independent from his hospital bed last summer, Mr Gorbuntsov linked the assassination attempt to evidence he planned to give over another attempted murder, of a former business associate. “I think it was because I was ready to give evidence,” he said. “They decided that if there is no person, there’s no problem.”
The arrest was confirmed by Interpol and the Metropolitan Police tonight.
British police have released grainy photos of a man suspected of shooting a former Russian banker near London’s Canary Wharf financial district, in a case that has raised fears that Russian gangland violence could be spreading to Britain.
Financier German Gorbuntsov, 45, was shot five times as he entered his block of flats near the River Thames on March 20.
He survived the attack but was critically injured and is recovering in hospital where his condition is described as stable.
London’s Metropolitan Police have made no arrests and say they are keeping an open mind about the motive.
But unconfirmed British media reports say the inquiry is focusing on organised crime in Russia.
Mr Gorbuntsov had been due to give evidence in an investigation into the attempted murder of a former business associate, his lawyer said last month.
Now police have released grainy security camera images of the man they believe tried to murder Mr Gorbuntsov, who once owned four Russian banks.
The pictures, taken moments after the shooting, show a tall white man wearing a dark hooded top and carrying a bag.
Detectives found a gun, bag and hooded top near the scene.
“We are continuing to examine CCTV footage from the area and are keen to speak with anyone who may have information about the shooting,” said Detective Chief Inspector Russell Taylor, who is leading the investigation.
Diplomatic relations between Russia and Britain have been tested by a series of disputes involving Russian emigres.
Russia has refused to extradite the man suspected of murdering former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko by putting radioactive polonium in his tea in London.
The two bankers appear to be linked by more than the recent events, which probably need to be investigated as a single “Russian mafia contract.” There are all sorts of guesses as to who ordered the hit, which is natural for a man with Gorbuntsov’s turbulent background.
Gorbuntsov, 45, was convicted of robbery in the 1980s and went into business in the 1990s as a founder of some 40 companies. He began his financial career in 2002 as a shareholder and director of Interus Bank. In 2005, the bank was stripped of its license for suspected money laundering, according to investigators.
In 2006, he met the Antonovs, father and son, and bought their controlling interests in two more banks. It appeared they had much in common even then. The Antonovs, as well as Gorbuntsov, had figured in more than one criminal scandal, including the murder of Sergei Ponomorev, chairman of the board of a bank they owned, in 2000. In 2002, Russia’s Investigative Committee opened a money laundering case against them. As a result, Central Bank Deputy Chairman Andrei Kozlov refused to include their Academkhimbank in the deposit insurance system.
The other bank, Conversbank-Moscow, appeared to be the holder of some $1 billion in accounts of a state monopoly. However, when its management tried to retrieve the deposit in 2008, the bank was unable to pay out that much cash. Gorbuntsov could not say where the money went. At the same time, his other assets, including a development company, a stadium and a hockey club, continued to prosper. Also in 2008, Gorbuntsov acquired Moldova’s Universalbank, which was reportedly used for the removal of the state monopoly’s funds from its accounts and for further legalization of that money.
Alexander Antonov was also involved in that scandal. In 2009, he narrowly survived an assassination attempt and fled to London, the increasingly popular base for controversial Russian oligarchs.
Gorbuntsov moved to London too, fleeing from prosecution in Russia. In 2011, Universalbank stock was arrested to pay a $5 billion claim, while in February 2012, the Moldovan authorities put him on the international wanted list. Shortly before that, Gorbuntsov sent a letter to Russian authorities laying out his own version of the attack on Antonov. In his words, he was trying to recover a debt of $106 million, while the Chechen gunmen who were helping him “slightly overdid it.”
The Antonov family felt insecure in London with their Lithuanian bank Snoras and Latvian Krajbank being nationalized and bankrupted after local regulators accused them of embezzling $1.42 billion and 210 million euros, respectively.
Antonov’s extradition hearing has been postponed until June. British police are investigating Gorbuntsov’s discontented creditors and deceived partners. Although political motives are not among the versions, Gorbuntsov still plans to ask for asylum and may be granted it.