. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Banker Arrested in Kozlov's Murder

bloombergAndrei Kozlov in 2006
Prominent banker Alexei Frenkel, 35, was arrested early Thursday for ordering the murder last year of Andrei Kozlov, first deputy chairman of the Central Bank.

Frenkel was the CEO of VIP Bank and the co-founder of Sodbiznesbank, both of whose licenses Kozlov revoked in 2004 on suspicion of laundering money for a kidnapping racket and other crime rings.

There was widespread speculation that Sodbiznesbank was involved in Kozlov's murder. The head of the bank, Alexander Slesarev, was gunned down with his wife and daughter in 2005 on a road outside Moscow.

Frenkel's lawyer, Igor Trunov, told Interfax that two more suspects had been detained and questioned Thursday in relation to Frenkel's involvement in the murder.

Frenkel's arrest "is definitely a step forward, but there may be other arrests," Anatoly Aksakov, president of the Association of Regional Banks of Russia and a State Duma deputy, said in an interview. "The heads of the banks he is connected to could be arrested, his colleagues and so on."

Suspects who may still be arrested include "not only those who ordered the killing, but those who orchestrated it and provided information," Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said in televised comments.

Kozlov was fatally shot Sept. 13 in the parking lot of the Spartak soccer stadium. He died in Moscow Hospital No. 33, never having regained consciousness. He was 41.

The murder was the highest-profile contract killing of a government official under President Vladimir Putin. It drew international attention to the world of Russian banking, which Kozlov had been working to reform but was still viewed as corrupt.

In October, three Ukrainian men were arrested in connection with the murder. Two of the suspects purportedly killed Kozlov and his driver, Alexander Semyonov; the third is believed to have arranged the getaway.

Three more accused accomplices were arrested in November and December.

The total number of suspects, all of whom have been charged with playing a role in Kozlov's murder, now stands at seven.

If convicted, Frenkel could face life in prison.

As first deputy chairman of the Central Bank, Kozlov had sought to rid the banking world of dirty money, shutting down 44 banks in 2006 alone. He also lobbied to make it illegal for those convicted of tax evasion to work in the banking sector.

And he led the charge to make deposit insurance mandatory for all banks, a campaign that won him much support from the millions of Russians who lost their savings during the rampant defaults of the 1990s.

But among the "pocket banks" -- small operations often used by mobsters to hold their money -- Kozlov was not so popular.

A money-laundering outfit run by Georgians was linked with the assassination by the Interior Ministry in October.

Aksakov, the Duma deputy, said Thursday's arrest would improve banks' rough-around-the-edges reputation among foreign investors, many of whom were rattled by a spate of contract killings last year.