U.S. Businessman Vanishes in Latvia

VedomostiRozhetskin, here seen in 2004, had arranged to meet unidentified individuals on Sunday, Latvian media reported.
A Russian-born American businessman who disappeared under murky circumstances from his vacation house in Latvia is believed to be alive, the U.S. Embassy in the country said Wednesday.

Leonid Rozhetskin, who made headlines after selling a blocking stake in MegaFon to rival Alfa Group in 2003, disappeared Sunday night from his house in the costal resort of Jurmala, Latvian police said in a statement.

Police began a massive search effort after a sport utility vehicle believed to belong to Rozhetskin was found abandoned in the city. Rozhetskin's private plane left Latvia in a hurry on Sunday, possibly without his consent, Latvian news agency Leta reported Wednesday, citing "unofficial information."

Rozhetskin had an appointment with unidentified individuals Sunday, but a man who turned up at his house discovered he was missing and tipped off police, Leta said.

The visitor said he found the house in a complete mess, with desks and a sofa overturned and what looked like blood stains on the floor, the agency reported.

Tests will be conducted on blood found in the home as well as what looked like blood stains in the car. Senior police official Aldis Lieljukskis confirmed in a radio interview Wednesday that traces of blood were found and said he suspected "something is not right."

A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Riga, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said police believed that Rozhetskin was alive.

"All the information we've had so far was from the police in Jurmala. We are giving them all the assistance needed to find the missing man."

Rozhetskin, 41, was born in Leningrad in 1966 and moved with his family to the United States in 1980, according to his web site. He returned to Russia in 1992 and set up a law firm.

He later turned his attention to the finance sector, co-founding Renaissance Capital and LV Finance, a venture capital firm.

From 2001 to 2005, Rozhetskin was the executive vice chairman of Norilsk Nickel, where he successfully fixed the company's image troubles and helped boost its share price.

Last year, he teamed up with Eric Eisner, son of Michael Eisner, the former CEO of The Walt Disney Company, to found a movie production company.

Rozhetskin's sale of the stake in MegaFon sparked a lengthy ownership dispute between Mikhail Fridman's Alfa Group and the cellular provider.

Bermuda mutual fund IPOC, a shareholder in MegaFon linked by a Swiss tribunal to IT and Communications Minister Leonid Reiman, filed a racketeering suit in 2006 in the United States against Alfa Group.

The suit centered on transactions in 2003, in which Rozhetskin, who was also a defendant in the case, sold LV Finance's stake in MegaFon to Alfa despite having already given option rights to IPOC. IPOC claimed it had paid for the shares and honored all the terms of the option agreement and that Rozhetskin sought to gain more money from IPOC for the stake.

In October 2006, Russian prosecutors issued a warrant for his arrest.

A three-judge private commercial tribunal in Zurich concluded in 2006 that Reiman was IPOC's owner and had abused his government position to dilute the state's stake in CT Mobile, a mobile firm that later formed the backbone of MegaFon.

Reiman has denied the allegations.

Rozhetskin, a Harvard-trained lawyer, contributed regular columns for The Moscow Times in the 1990s and has provided legal services for the newspaper.