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Mob Watch: Russian Mafia Boss Vyacheslav Ivankov Dies From Gunshot Wounds

Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 9:00 am
"Little Japanese" did time in an American prison for extortion
Vyacheslav Ivankov -- aka "Little Japanese" -- was leaving the Thai Elephant in Moscow in July when a sniper shot him three times in the stomach. The 69-year-old Russian Mafia boss spent months in the hospital before succumbing to his wounds last week.

It was a fitting end for the Mafioso whose career spanned four decades, two continents, and even endured communist rule. Police believe he was murdered for trying to settle a beef between two warring Moscow crime factions.

During his career, Ivankov specialized in gun-running, racketeering, drug trafficking and extortion, both in Russia and the U.S. He spent 11 years in a Russian prison on a robbery conviction in 1980. A year after he was released in 1991, he moved to America -- but didn't end his criminal ways...

Police say he preyed upon fellow Russian immigrants in the Brighton Beach section of New York, and helped divvy up the U.S. into autonomous turfs to avoid conflict. In 1995, he was convicted of extorting $3.5 million from two immigrants and using a fake marriage to gain citizenship.

Ivankov was extradited back to Russian upon release in 2004, but was soon charged with murdering two Turks in a Moscow restaurant 12 years before.

This is where is pays to be a Mafia boss: When he went to trial, all five witnesses in the case -- including a cop -- claimed they'd never seen him before.

Police believe he died after trying to settle a dispute between rival factions run by Tariel Oniani and Aslan Usoyan. Ivankov supposedly backed Usoyan, which left Oniani inclined to shoot someone. And this being Russia, where crimes are rarely solved -- especially gangland shootings -- it's doubtful police will ever arrest his killers.

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