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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Jury Selection Begins In Russian Mob Trial

NEW YORK -- Lawyers began questioning potential jurors on Monday in an extortion case of a reputed godfather of Russian organized crime, but opening arguments were not expected to begin until next week, attorneys said.

Motions by attorneys for Vyacheslav "The Japanese" Ivankov, a powerful figure in New York City's Russian expatriate community, were expected to push opening arguments in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn to May 29, they said.

Ivankov and three co-defendants are accused of extorting $3.5 million from two compatriots who ran a small investment advisory firm in New York City.

But prosecutors hope to prove Ivankov is a crime boss operating out of Brighton Beach, a Brooklyn neighborhood known as "Little Odessa" for its large Russian community, and link the alleged "Russian Mafia" to crimes of bribery, money laundering, drug dealing and murder around the world.

Ivankov is accused of threatening the principals of Summit International, Alexander Volkov and Vladimir Voloshin, in phone calls and in person, in an effort to extort money.

Voloshin's father was fatally beaten on a Moscow train platform last April. The two investment advisers eventually fled to the FBI when Ivankov allegedly approached them for a meeting.

The FBI describes Ivankov as one of the vory v zakone, or "thieves in law," anointed rulers of the Russian underworld who settle disputes much like Mafia "dons."

Defense attorney Barry Slotnick plans to argue Ivankov was not pursuing a giant trans-continental criminal enterprise but merely negotiating a straightforward bank loan repayment.

Slotnick says Ivankov was negotiating repayment of a loan made to Summit on behalf of Chara Bank, a licensee of the Central Bank of Russia.

Roustam Sadykov, an assistant director of Chara Bank, is an unindicted co-conspirator who allegedly hired Ivankov to apply the muscle for the repayment.

A fierce anti-Communist, Ivankov spent 10 years in a Siberian labor camp before reportedly bribing a judge and fleeing to the United States in 1992 with a faked exit visa.