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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Metro Ad King Arrested

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Security forces late Wednesday arrested the man who has a virtual monopoly on the $9 million-a-year metro advertising market and charged him with running a criminal gang.

Alexander Babayan was arrested in Moscow by officials from the Federal Security Service and the Interior Ministry's organized crime department, Interfax reported.

"Citizen Alexander B." was arrested on Malaya Dmitrovka Ulitsa in central Moscow, the organized crime department's press service said.

Industry observers said that Babayan's wife, Laura Babayan, is the director of the Metros-Media advertising agency, which owns exclusive rights to place advertising within Moscow's metro.

Metros-Media is a subsidiary of subway operator Moscow Metropolitan.

Investigators said Babayan runs a criminal group allegedly responsible for extortion, robbery and banditry. In addition to these charges, "Citizen B." is suspected of "establishing control over the activities of a number of firms including those working in the advertising business," the organized crime department said.

"As their shadow chief, he organized the misappropriation of monetary funds and concealed profits, the total value of which is $12 million," it said.

Neither Laura Babayan nor Moscow Metropolitan head Dmitry Gayev could be reached for comment.

"Advertising in the metro is one of the most criminal sectors of the advertising business," the head of a major advertising company said on condition of anonymity. "It is worth about $9 million per year while Moscow Metropolitan itself receives less than $1 million. That's probably why they took an interest in Babayan. You can't earn that much while officially passing on so little to Moscow Metropolitan," he said.