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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Web Wisdom for Wired Wise Guys

The former owner of this column once tried to sell it to an English publisher. But after flipping through stories of camels, radioactive rubles and juggling cats, the publisher said "What we'd really like is some mafia stories."

Consider this an investment.

I once picked up a fax that was a catalog of videos taped, allegedly, at the National Hotel and up for sale. Each one was a secret tape of a famous politician or showbiz star meeting with a Russian godfather. For example, "Mr. 'X,' leader of the 'X' party, having tea and biscuits with Yury the Bull, godfather of the Yaroslavl region, in the China Room."

As I read down the list, the politicians and celebs got more famous, the mafia nicknames more ridiculous. By the list's end, it was "President 'X' of the 'X' republic arm-wrestling with Dima the One-Fingered Moose Chewer over cappuccinos."

My memory is not what it used to be, so don't quote me on the finer details of the fax, but my recollection is basically accurate.

Unfortunately, the fax number at the top of the page was unreadable and the sender never phoned again.

The closest I've been since is

The site is supposedly for the web-minded man in black with a host of links on guns, porn, counter-surveillance equipment shops, where to get that black makeup to put on your face for your weekly maraud and how to psychoanalyze your victim/business partner.

Other sites with information on offshore banking and creative accounting pop up on the screen as you browse the site.

Under illustrations of men in camouflage and images of dollars and guns are advertisements for business journals and marketing firms. "This banner was placed by SAFE AUDIT" reads one.

There is also an ad for an English-language school where I used to teach. The school had once been run by a man I knew who claimed he was a former American spy who had saved the free world on numerous occasions. He had an almost magical way of spinning the most fantastical stories for hours on end - from his game leg in Vietnam to his passport which apparently warned anyone "in the know" that he was "one of them."

At the bottom of the site's home page is the following announcement: "After many requests, here is znakomstva [introductions]" - a dating agency for lonely godfathers and godmothers.

"Looking to find a man with an ability to be tender and gentle, who respects other people," writes Zhanna from St. Petersburg, who obviously hasn't seen any Al Pacino films lately.

But not everyone is convinced of the authenticity of the site.

"It's purely a police site," sneered one visitor, in the guest room. "What kind of thief or bandit would write about guns when they could write about themselves?"

He then went on to complain about the porn on the site, saying he couldn't tell who was doing what to whom.

And it might be a good idea to check the meanings of a few of the terms on the mafia slang page before you start liberally throwing them into conversations. I tried them out on the business desk and was promptly corrected for using the wrong stress.

At least, someone has evidently used the surveillance equipment advertised - one section provides lists of real telephone calls to the ambulance service.

- Where have you taken my wife?

- To the maternity hospital.

- Why? What's wrong with her?

And if you're unlikely to find anyone at the National (allegedly) looking up on their laptop over a crumpet with famous singer Mr. "X" in tow, perhaps that's because the site is going upmarket. has become the birthplace of a mini web empire, Yahoo-style - lists hundreds of sites. None appear to be criminally related, although the jury's still out on