The Russian Mafia has shown its ability to operate around the world including its reach into the United States while U.S. law enforcement has no ability to reach them in Russia. Federal prosecutors in the U.S. have recently charged Alimzhan T. Tokhtakhounov with running an illegal gambling and money laundering ring. In the indictment he is identified as a leading member of the Russian Mafia also known as a “Vor” or “thief in law” sort of priestly Russian criminal order. Tokhtakhounov is one of the last of the old generation of Russian Mafia godfathers and is among a handful of names that virtually every other member of organized crime in Russia knows according to U.S. sources. Although according to reports the Russian police claim to have nothing on Mr. Tokhtakhounov and he shows up on no wanted list in their country and is free to walk the streets albeit with a bodyguard.
Federal authorities in the United States have been after Tokhtakhounov since he was charged with rigging pair skating and ice dancing competitions at the Olympics in 2002. Since then he has been accused of being part of a multi million dollar money laundering scheme and the latest charges in April of running an illegal gambling ring operating in the U.S. along with two associates Vadim Trincher and Anatoly Golubchik. Prosecutors say the gambling ring operated high stakes poker games for celebrities and financial titans in New York and Los Angeles and was helped in part by Hillel Nahmad a scion of a New York art dealing family. With no extradition treaty between the United States and Russia there is no way for U.S. prosecutors to get their hands on Mr Tokhtakhounov. Because of his fugitive status in other countries Tokhtakhounov has not left Russia in over a decade.
Back in Russia Mr Takhtakhounov claims to be a real estate investor in Moscow and an organizer of fashion shows and Russian pop concerts and not a criminal and contests the F.B.I.’s characterization of him. U.S. authorities also claim he is a friend and affiliated with Semyon Y. Mogilevich who is also considered to be a Russian Mafia godfather and site on the F.B.I.’s Top Ten Most Wanted list and is also living freely in Russia. Mr Tokhtakhounov denies knowing Mr Mogilevich but admits some friendships with other reputed Russian Mafia leaders such as Granpa Hassan who was recently killed in what was believed to be a mob hit.