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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kidnappers Undone by a Cellphone

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It wasn't so long ago that I wrote a column about how the next phase of the battle over property would be waged through criminal cases. That is, the chosen victim will simply be jailed and tried for, say, murder. And, of course, in many cases the charges will be more than credible.

The first victims are already doing time: Mikhail Zhivilo and the so-called "godfather of Krasnoyarsk," Anatoly Bykov. Another victim, St. Petersburg oligarch Mikhail Mirilashvili, was arrested recently.

Mirilashvili is the boss of virtually all of St. Petersburg's gambling sector. His ambiguous relationship with the criminal underworld had long been a source of concern to local bosses, who finally decided that he owed the mafia treasury not less than $2 million.

Mirilashvili refused to pay up, and that is when the idea of forcing the money out of him by kidnapping his father was born.

Mikhail Mirilashvili's father disappeared on Aug. 7, 2000, grabbed right out of his car as it stood waiting for a red light. The driver managed to escape. Later, it was discovered that one of the kidnappers had dropped his mobile phone in the car.

According to investigators, shortly thereafter a known mafia figure name Gocha Tsarageishvili (a relative of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, by the way) appeared before Mirilashvili and offered his services as mediator. Mirilashvili was suspicious and decided to check the telephone numbers in the memory of the kidnapper's telephone. Among them was Tsarageishvili's.

Immediately, Mirilashvili's entire security detachment was on Tsarageishvili's trail. Since that detachment was headed by a former deputy head of St. Petersburg's anti-organized crime unit, that unit also suddenly energetically took up the case.

The search for the owner of the mobile phone led police to an apartment on Blagodatnaya Ulitsa, where they detained two Georgians: Kobu Kokushadze (who served time for robbery in 1997) and Rustam Dvali, the brother of a Georgian mafia figure named Badri Dvali.

However, the pair never made it to the police station. Instead, the police handed them over directly to Mirilashvili. The next day, Mirilashvili's father was released. A month later, Tsagareishvili was shot down in front of the Astoria Hotel, together with his lover and a friend. At that moment, the Astoria was hosting an investment conference that Mirilashvili was attending. In Petersburg, they love to murder with style.

However, not being a mafia boss or "thief in law" himself, Mirilashvili was not backed by a loyal and blood-bound group such as those that virtually guarantee the untouchability of Russia's mafia bosses.

The offended local mafia bosses — the ones who continued to believe that Mirilashvili owed them $2 million — appealed to their higher-ups in Moscow and a delegation was dispatched to the northern capital. And as soon as that happened, the very police who earlier had handed over the kidnappers to Mirilashvili now rushed to squeal on him. They understood this is the kind of investigation in which it is better to be a witness than a suspect.

So that's the whole story. Now Mirilashvili is in jail. If the police are able to find the bodies of Kokushadze and Dvali, the kidnapping charges will become murder charges.

The only question now is exactly how many Russian oligarchs will they be able to bring down using the "Mirilashvili Model?"

Yulia Latynina is a journalist for ORT.