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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Frenkel Arrest Approved by Judge

APVIP Bank chief executive Alexei Frenkel covering himself in court Monday. His lawyer, Igor Trunov, is next to him.
A judge on Monday granted the Prosecutor General's request that Andrei Frenkel be arrested on suspicion of organizing the murder of Andrei Kozlov, formerly the Central Bank's second-highest ranking official.

Frenkel's arrest comes three days after that of Liana Askerova, who was charged Friday with involvement in the Sept. 13 killing.

Frenkel, who maintains his innocence, is to be formally charged Wednesday with ordering the killing. He has said he will appeal the judge's ruling but is unlikely to win.

Assuming he is charged, authorities will then have two months to gather evidence against Frenkel, who is being held in Petrovka 38 jail and is expected to be transferred to a holding facility Wednesday.

If tried and convicted of the crime, Frenkel could face life in prison.

Frenkel's lawyer, Igor Trunov, meanwhile, said he was building a case to prove that his client "is innocent of these groundless charges."

Trunov was speaking in an interview outside the Basmanny District Court, where Monday's hearing took place.

Frenkel was seen hiding his face with a leather jacket in a steel cage in the courtroom Monday.

On his way out of the courtroom, a handcuffed Frenkel, flanked by police, said only that he would appeal the judge's ruling before being bundled into a police van.

Trunov said Askerova told police that Frenkel had "taken part" in the killing.

Kommersant offered a somewhat different take, saying the inexperienced Askerova, reported to be a restaurateur and the head of an association of boxing promoters, had been pressured into naming Frenkel.

It was Askerova, the co-owner of the restaurant Trish, who helped Frenkel find hit men, the newspaper reported.

Askerova reportedly turned to her business partner, Boris Shafrai.

Shafrai then asked for help from Bogdan Pogorzhevsky, an underworld figure known in criminal circles as Bonya.

Pocketing half of the $10,000 offered up by Frenkel, Pogorzhevsky then hired Moscow gypsy cab drivers Alexei Polovinkin, Maxim Proglyada and Alexander Belokopytov, all Ukrainians, to kill Kozlov. The remaining $5,000 paid for the men's services and guns.

The three Ukrainians ran into trouble on the night of the killing. As they approached the Spartak sports complex, where Kozlov was playing football, a guard stopped them. The car was barred from entering the complex, the guard jotting down its license plate number.

Ultimately, the men were forced to park elsewhere and gain access to the parking lot outside the sports complex by foot.

Mikhail Metzel / AP
Frenkel speaking with reporters as he is escorted into a courtroom Monday.
After the shooting, Belokopytov, the car's owner, tried to sell it in Stavropol. He was arrested there one week later. Belokopytov immediately named his two accomplices. Polovinkin and Proglyada were then arrested in Moscow.

Two months later, police arrested Pogorzhevsky, who led them to Askerova's business partner, Shafrai. Shafrai was detained Dec. 27 but refused to talk about any role he or Askerova might have played in the killing.

Askerova reportedly grew nervous and began looking for a lawyer. She was arrested days later.

Under police pressure, Askerova reportedly told police that Frenkel had ordered Kozlov's death.

Yevgeny Martynov, who had been Askerova's lawyer until she was arrested Friday, said he could not speak about the events surrounding her arrest. Martynov appeared to have been fired by Askerova, saying simply that it was not his decision to part ways.

He added that Nikolai Klyon, well-known lawyer, had taken over the case for Askerova. Klyon refused to comment Monday.

No one at Trish restaurant could be reached Monday.

Frenkel, 35, is the CEO of VIP Bank and a co-founder of Sodbiznesbank, both of whose licenses Kozlov revoked in 2004 on suspicion of money laundering and other crimes.

Kozlov and Frenkel, Kommersant reported, had been tangled up in bitter court disputes over the licenses of the banks since 2004.

In 2005, Kozlov refused to extend federal insurance to VIP Bank, prompting Frenkel to sue in arbitration court. Frenkel personally represented the bank.

On May 6 of last year, the arbitration court ruled that VIP Bank had been unlawfully cut out of the federal deposit insurance system.

Kozlov retaliated by ordering an investigation into the bank's dealings. This investigation led to the bank's license being revoked June 15.

Kozlov reportedly received phone calls from people pretending to be from the Prosecutor General's Office and the Federal Security Service demanding that VIP Bank be insured. Frenkel is said to have arranged for these calls.

On Monday, Trunov said prosecutors' lack of concrete evidence implicating Frenkel would lead to an acquittal.

And he restated how angry he was that his client had yet to receive medical care after being "beaten up" by authorities.

"He still can't sit down," Trunov said. "He was beaten so hard to his body that he has heart pains, yet they are refusing to give him access to medical care," he added.

Seven people have now been arrested in connection with Kozlov's murder: The three Ukrainians who carried out the hit; the two middlemen, Shafrai and Pogorzhevsky; and Frenkel and Askerova.

Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said last week that he expected more arrests to be made in connection with Kozlov's killing in the coming weeks.