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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tatum Family Accuses Mayor in Suit

Relatives of American businessman Paul Tatum - gunned down in Moscow in 1996 in an apparent contract hit - have filed a lawsuit against Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, accusing him of protecting the killers and blocking the investigation.

The Arizona-based law firm Kimerer & LaVelle filed the suit Friday saying Luzhkov "was responsible for effectuating the murder of Paul Tatum ... and illegally confiscating Tatum's property in Russia," Michael Kimerer, head of the firm, said in a statement issued in Phoenix.

The law firm is representing Tatum's sister, Robin Tatum Furmanek, and her husband, Rick Furmanek.

A spokesman for the mayor's office Sunday dismissed the allegations as an "invention by Luzhkov's political adversaries," claiming the scandal "has been deliberately blown up shortly before the parliamentary election and the mayoral election in Moscow," The Associated Press reported.

A masked gunman shot Tatum - an Oklahoma native and president of the Americom Business Centers - with 11 rounds from a Kalashnikov automatic rifle in a pedestrian underpass near the Kievskaya metro station.

Three years later, no one has been charged with the murder.

Since the early 1990s Tatum had been embroiled in a high-profile battle for control of the $50 million Radisson Slavjanskaya Hotel complex, in which he owned a chain of luxury shops and a business center. The Moscow City Property Committee, co-owners of the hotel with Radisson, accused Tatum's joint venture of failing to pay millions of dollars in rent arrears.

In return, Tatum accused the powerful property committee of discriminating against foreign investors.

The lawsuit emphasizes that Tatum's greatest adversary was the Moscow City Property Committee.

"Paul Tatum," Kimerer said, "was gunned down on the streets of Moscow on Nov. 3, 1996 after publicly denouncing Yury Luzhkov's actions in confiscating the Radisson Slavjanskaya, a premier Western-style hotel in Moscow worth millions of dollars."

The lawsuit is the latest in a recent series of twists to the three-year-old murder case.

Earlier this month, controversial ORT news anchor Sergei Dorenko stepped up his campaign against Luzhkov by accusing him of ordering Tatum's murder.

On his Sunday evening show, Dorenko interviewed Jeff Olsen - a friend of the victim who worked as his "special consultant" - who said Tatum, as he was dying, accused Luzhkov of being behind the attack.

"His last words to the office and to me were: Luzhkov was responsible, he did this to me," Olsen said.

Although Kimerer & LaVelle has refrained from accusing Luzhkov of ordering Tatum's murder, the law firm alleges the mayor's office knows more than it is revealing.

"It is believed that the identity of the [murderer] is well know to Russian authorities. And that to date, because of the immense political power and other power, Yury Luzhkov has been able to protect the actual perpetrators of the murder and has prevented embarrassing inquiry by international authorities," Kimerer said in the statement.

Kimerer said his firm will take this suit as far as necessary and that the "filing of the complaint is just the first step in what will be a long and arduous litigation process."

"The family of Paul Tatum, frustrated by the failure of Moscow authorities to properly investigate the murder and the disinterest of the United States government to become involved, felt that their only recourse was to initiate this lawsuit," he said.

Some Russian media and businesspeople have accused Luzhkov of corruption, but this is apparently the first time he has been accused of a crime as serious as "effectuating" a murder.

The statement didn't disclose the amount Tatum's family is seeking, and Kimerer was unavailable for comment. Itar-Tass reported the Furmaneks are seeking $36 million in damages.