Chicago Journal of International Law


In November 1996, a Moscow-based Russian organized crime group headed by a former KGB official carried out an enterprising crime. The group kidnapped, in Moscow, the father of a US businessman, and held him for ransom in a KGB/FSB- owned office suite. The group then extorted funds from the US businessman, in Los Angeles, in exchange for his father's release. As an Assistant US Attorney in LA, I was put in charge of the investigation and prosecution. The case would take me to the former Soviet Union several times, both to lead an investigatory team and ultimately to take the first-ever criminal depositions by a US law enforcement official on Russian soil, and, a few months later, the first-ever criminal depositions on Armenian soil. In many ways, however, it was a standard case, typical of the dozens of cases I would handle as a Russian organized crime prosecutor for the justice Department. In this perspective I first give a very brief background of Russian organized crime and its reach into the US. I then describe this particular kidnapping case in more detail. Finally, I outline some of the legal challenges we faced in prosecuting this case.