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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Report: Police Crack Mafia Extortion Ring

Police have foiled a mafia group's attempt to extort 1.5 million euros from a British company, law enforcement officials said Friday.

"The extortionists were caught red-handed," a law enforcement source told RIA-Novosti, saying three men were arrested in the foyer of Moscow's Renaissance Hotel during the exchange of a payment order for the sum of 1 million euros.

"They turned out to be two unemployed [men] and a teacher from the All Russian State Academy of the Federal Tax Service," he added.

The three men were trying to extort a total of 1.5 million euros from British events organizer ITE Group, RIA-Novosti reported the police as saying.

All members of the Taganskaya organized crime group, the men had threatened to destroy company property and send compromising information to the media if they did not pay, police said.

An ITE Group spokesman, Richard Wightman, said Friday that there had been an incident and that it had gone to the authorities. He refused to give further details.

The three have been charged with extortion and face from seven to 15 years in jail if convicted of extortion as part of an organized group. Police could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Russian media named the tax academy teacher as Nikolai Bashkirov, 32, but there was doubt as to whether he was still employed at the institution, which the government set up in 1996 to train tax officials.

Komsomolskaya Pravda reported an academy official as saying he had received his doctorate degree at the academy and worked as a teaching assistant but left in May. Bashkirov's cousin Nikolai Korovin told the paper that he worked at ITE Group.

The arrest is the third incident involving extortion accusations and tax officials this month. A senior federal tax official was arrested Oct 17 suspected of demanding a $5.3 million bribe from a Moscow bank in exchange for dropping a back tax claim. Meanwhile, two tax police officers were arrested in Moscow as they accepted a bribe for $20,000, the Moscow prosecutor's office said Friday, The Associated Press reported.