|Born||Александр Павлович Конаныхин (Alexander Pavlovich Konanykhin)
|Residence||New York City|
|Alma mater||Edinburgh Business School|
|Known for||Entrepreneur, former banker|
|Spouse(s)||Silvina Moschini (current), Elena Gratcheva (deceased)|
|Awards||2004 New York Businessman of the Year, Republican National Committee; 2011 WW IT Visionary Award from CIO Magazine|
Alex Konanykhin (born Alexander Pavlovich Konanykhin (Russian: Александр Павлович Конаныхин) September 25, 1966 in Ostashkov, Russia) is a Russian entrepreneur and former banker In 1999, Konanykhin and his wife were granted political asylum in the United States, the first citizens of post-Soviet Russia to be given this status. His asylum was later reversed in 2004, but reinstated in 2007.
Konanykhin studied at the Department of Space Research at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology to pursue a career in engineering. In 1986, he was expelled from MIPT for running a small business during his summer vacation. After his expulsion, he took advantage of the loosening business climate during Mikhail Gorbachev’s economic reforms (perestroika). Within a few years, he became the head of a $30 Million construction enterprise.
Career in Russia
By the early 1990s in Russia, Konanykhin amassed a $300 million banking and real estate empire. In 1991, Konanykhin founded the Russian Exchange Bank, which became the first institution to receive a currency-trading license from Yeltsin’s government. In 1992, he was one of the delegates to accompany Yeltsin to Washington, D.C., where they met with President George H. W. Bush, and afterwards, in Canada with Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
In 1992 he was kidnapped while on a business trip to Budapest, Hungary, during which time his business assets in Russia were seized. Konanykhin fled to New York where he delivered protest letters to senior Moscow officials and members of the press warning of the looming “mafiocracy.” "I am addressing this letter,” he wrote on September 6, 1992, “to warn you of a serious political danger -- the seizure of large commercial organizations by mafia-opposition circles that will stop at nothing to achieve their ends." When there were no responses to his letters, he contacted President Yeltsin directly. This prompted an investigation by the Moscow-based military prosecutor’s office, and Konanykhin soon also found himself under investigation. The prosecutor, Alexandre Volvodez, now charged Konanykhin with illegal wiring of $8.1 million from the Russian Exchange Bank to overseas accounts, and demanded his extradition to Russia.
As hearings in American federal court would later show, during this time the FBI had opened a division in Moscow; because American prosecutors and FBI officials were anxious to develop a relationship with Russian law enforcement officials, they had agreed to assist Volvodez in his request for Konanykhin’s deportation. But because Russia and the United States do not have an extradition treaty, Justice Department officials agreed to try to deport him for violating immigration laws under a minor visa violation. The allegation was later proven false and dismissed during Konanykhin’s first granting of asylum in 1999.
First immigration trial
On June 27, 1996 INS agents along with Russian federal prosecutors arrested Konanykhin and his wife Elena Gratcheva at their Watergate apartment in Washington, D.C. The couple were taken to Arlington, Virginia and charged in federal immigration court with violating the conditions of their temporary U.S. visas. Between July 19 and August 2 of 1996 hearings were held in the courtroom of Judge John M. Bryant to determine if, as Konanykhin claimed, his deportation was being masterminded by Russian army prosecutor Volvodez for political reasons, and that Konanykhin’s life was consequently in danger. The trial touched upon issues as to whether the secret police had taken over the Russian banking industry, and also if the United States government had been fooled into going after Konanykhin.
In court Konanykhin testified he was being targeted by Volvodez and the Russians because of his anti-corruption campaign, and his lawyers argued that he had transferred money to private accounts only to prevent it from being stolen. Appearing as witnesses at the trial were FBI agents who testified that the Russian mafia had previously taken out a contract on Konanykhin’s life. Also appearing were former INS prosecutor, Antoinette Rizzi, who had previously been in charge of the government’s case against Konanykhin, and former KGB agent Yuri Shvets. Both Rizzi and Shvets testified that they had serious doubts about the charges filed against Konanykhin by Volvodez and the American government.
On August 26, 1996 in Federal Court in Arlington, Virginia, a settlement agreement between Konanykhin and the district director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which was endorsed by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, was reached. Judge Ellis, who had stated he found the testimonies of Yuri Shvets and Antoinette Rizzi in Konanykhin’s immigration case “credible and somewhat disturbing,” ordered the INS to pay $100,000 of Konanykhin’s legal fees to pro bono counsel at Arent Fox Kintner Plotkin & Kahn. The settlement also ordered Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Spencer to confirm within 30 days that there would be an internal probe by the Department of Justice into the conduct of INS lawyers at the hearing.
Libel lawsuits and political asylum
In a lawsuit filed in February, 1997 with the Arlington County Circuit Court, Konanykhin alleged defamation against the daily Russian newspaper Izvestia which had reported him involved in various criminal acts. The suit claimed that the information was erroneous and published with "reckless disregard for its truth or actual malice.” An Arlington County Circuit Court jury recommended Konanykhin should be awarded $33.5 million. Soon thereafter the same court awarded Konanykhin an additional $3 million in a libel case against the Russian financial journal Kommersant. According to The Sunday Times, in 2010 the amount remained the largest amount ever awarded to an individual in a libel suit.
On February 23, 1999 in Federal Immigration court Judge Bryant granted political asylum to Konanykhin and Gratcheva, saying the former banker faced persecution and possible death if returned to Russia to face embezzlement charges. In his decision Judge Bryant wrote that testimony from several experts had convinced him that Konanykhin was being targeted for prosecution for political reasons.
Temporarily freed from his trials with the Russian and American governments, Konanykhin and Gratcheva went on to develop a $100 million Internet startup in New York called KMGi, among other businesses. But then on November 20, 2003 the Board of Immigration Appeals revoked Konanykhin’s political asylum and ordered him returned to Russia. The ruling came less than a month (October 25, 2003) after the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Konanykhin’s former banking rival in Russia and business partner during his exile. Konanykhin had served as vice president for the international development of Khodorkovsky's bank, Menatep.
Second immigration trial
Konanykhin and Gratcheva fled to the Canadian border to evade immigration authorities. There, on December 18, 2003, they were arrested by several Department of Homeland Security agents at the Peace Bridge. Konanykhin and Gratcheva were saved from deportation at the last minute by a series of emergency hearings in Federal Court. On January 26, 2004 Judge T. S. Ellis III delivered his ruling, which found the arrest unlawful, and allowed the couple to stay in the United States temporarily, until appeals in their immigration case were exhausted. For the second time the Department of Justice was ordered to pay compensation to Konanykhin for unlawful arrest. In addition, all charges against him in Russia were dropped in 2005. On September 18, 2007 in a federal courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia, Konanykhin was granted asylum for the second time.
Career in America
He and his wife, Elena Gratcheva, established the Internet firms KMGi (an advertising agency), Publicity Guaranteed (a public relations firm), and The Syndicated News, an online marketplace. In 2004, Konanykhin was named “New York Businessman of the Year” by the Republican National Committee.
In 2010, his firm, KMGI established a subsidiary, WikiExperts.us, a business centered around creating Wikipedia articles for companies. Paid editing of Wikipedia has sparked considerable debate, due to conflict of interest. In 2011 Konanykhin was named the winner of the WW IT Visionary Award by CIO Magazine (in Spanish: WW IT Visionary 2011 de CIO America Latina).
- Defiance: How to Succeed in Business Despite Being Hounded by the FBI, the KGB, the INS, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, Interpol, and Mafia Hitmen Renaissance Publishing, 2006. ISBN 978-0-9727377-0-8 
In popular culture
- Brian Haig's book, The Hunted (ISBN 0-446-19559-6), is a novel based on the life of Konanykhin and his wife. The book is dedicated to Konanykhin's wife Elena.
- St. Petersburg Times
- U.S. Judge Rules Konanykhin Can Stay, For Now
- Book Review: Defiance by Alex Konanykhin
- Escape from the KGB and FBI
- The USA is going to send the former financier of President Boris Yeltsin back to Russia
- Doing Business With Russia
- Konanykhin Hearing Begins
- U.S. Judge Rules Konanykhin Can Stay, For Now
- U.S. Rethinks Konanykhin Case
- US COURT TO HEAR FORMER RUSSIAN BANKER'S CASE
- US authorities arrested Khodorkovsky's former partner
- Geopolitics: The new Cold War 
- Konanykhin Finds No Freedom in U.S.
- Immigration panel backs off effort to deport Russian banker
- Russian Banker Released From Custody In USA
- Salatino, Verónica. "Historias de amor más allá de todo (Stories of love beyond all)". Retrieved March 22, 2012.
- Alex Konanykhin (2006). How to Succeed in Business Despite Being Hounded by the FBI, the KGB, the INS, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, Interpol and Mafia Hit Men. pp. 134=140. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- Danielle Sonnenberg (2007-07-19). "Foreign Entrepreneurs Finding the American Dream". TheStreet.
- Shane, Scott (2006-12-10). "Correspondence - Spy Wars - When an Ex-K.G.B. Man Says They're Out to Get Him - NYTimes.com". Russia; Great Britain: New York Times. "Alex Konanykhin, a former Russian banker who fled to the United States in 1992 after former K.G.B. officers muscled him out of his own business."
- Shane, Scott (1999-02-23). "Federal judge grants Russian banker political asylum". The Baltimore Sun.
- Jeff Sanford (2007-06-04). "Geopolitics: The new Cold War | Managing | Strategy | Canadian Business Online". Canadianbusiness.com.
- Farah, Douglas, “Couple Tied to Putin Foes, Fights Deportation,” Washington Post, January 9, 2004.
- Constable, Pamela (1996-06-29). "Russian Pair in Custody, Accused of Embezzlement". Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post. "Alexandre Konanykhine, 30, and his wife, Elena Gratcheva, 34, are now in custody in Virginia"
- "Konanykhin Granted Political Refugee Status - Kommersant Moscow". Kommersant.com. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- Constable, “Russian Pair in Custody, Accused of Embezzlement.”
- Grigg, William Norman, “Cozy with the KGB,” The New American, Volume 13, Number 20, September 29, 1997.
- Constable, Pamela, "From Russia with Chutzpah,” The Washington Post, August 18, 1996.
- Alexander, Karen, “Did KGB Dupe INS?” Legal Times, July 28, 1997.
- Ralitsa Vassileva (host) and Jonathan Mann (interviewer) (November 24, 2006). "New Outbreaks of Violence in Iraq After Sadr City Attacks; Radioactive Element Found in Body of Ex-Spy; Vladimir Putin Denies Kremlin Involvement in Poisoning". CNN. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- Constable, “From Russia with Chutzpah.”
- “Federal Judge Orders an Internal Justice Department Probe,” Baltimore Sun, February 23, 1999.
- Compston, Emily, “My Fear of the Mobski,” The London Express (daily), December 10, 1996.
- Alexander, Karen, “Russian Freed, INS Faces Ethics Probe,” Legal Times, September 1, 1997.
- Alexander, “Russian Freed, INS Faces Ethics Probe.”
- Buel, Jessica S., “Jury Awards Russian $33 M Damage Ruling,” The Arlington Journal, December 15, 1999.
- “U.S. Court Finds Kommersant Guilty of Libel,” The Moscow Times, January 25, 2000.
- Ciara Kenny (November 21, 2010). "The Naked Truth about Libel". The Sunday Times.
- Baroney, Michael, “Russian Rebel,” Profit Magazine, September, 1999.
- "Ex-banker ordered to return to Russia - Baltimore Sun". Articles.baltimoresun.com. 2003-11-25. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- Farah, “Couple Tied to Putin Foes, Fights Deportation.”
- Marken, Jerry, “Deportation Threat Lifted, Decisions Allow Russian to Stay in U.S. Indefinitely,” Washington Post, January 30, 2004.
- "Escaped Banker Acknowledged Victim of Russia" [http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=806310] (in English, Russian). Russia: Kommersant. 2007-09-20. "Judge Bryant upheld Konanykhin instead of the Department of Justice"
- Andres Amerikaner (January 6, 2008). "Luxury Food Market Targeted By Entrepreneur". Miami Herald. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- Andres Amerikaner (January 6, 2008). "Luxury Food Market Targeted By Entrepreneur". Miami Herald via news archive redOrbit. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- Wed, Jul 8, 2009 (2009-07-08). "Deal Radar 2009: Publicity Guaranteed". Sramana Mitra. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- "About us | Intuic | The Social Media Agency". Intuic. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- Kamen, Al, “In the Loop,” The Washington Post, February 13, 2004, page A25.
- "Wikipleadia - The promise and perils of crowdsourcing content". The Economist (London: The Economist Newspaper Ltd.). 2011-01-13. Archived from the original on 20 January 2011. Retrieved 2011-01-26. "Alex Konanykhin of WikiExperts..."
- Read, Brock (2007-01-24). "Wikipedia Blocks a Pay-for-Play Scheme - Wired Campus - The Chronicle of Higher Education". Chronicle.com. Retrieved 2012-02-12.
- Marcelo Lozano (October 24, 2011). "ALEX KONANYKHIN – WW IT VISIONARY 2011 – CIO AMÉRICA LATINA". CIO Magazine.
- "KMGI control software presents the use of work time". PC World. February 23, 2012.
- Defiance: How to Succeed in Business ... - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- "Defiance, or: How to Succeed in Business While Being Targeted by the FBI, the KGB, the Department of Homeland Security, the INS and the Mafia Hit Men". Defiancethebook.com. Archived from the original on 2 February 2011. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- The Hunted - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- "St. Petersburg Times". Sptimes.ru. 2003-11-25. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- "U.S. Judge Rules Konanykhin Can Stay, For Now | | The Moscow Times Archive". The Moscow Times. 2004-01-28. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- "Book Review: Defiance by Alex Konanykhin - Blogcritics Books". Blogcritics.org. 2006-07-31. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- "Escape from the KGB and FBI | The Businessweek Video Library". Feedroom.businessweek.com. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- 27.11.2003 (2003-11-27). "The USA is going to send the former financier of President Boris Yeltsin back to Russia". English pravda.ru. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- "Doing Business With Russia". Franchise in Russia. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- Comments (2004-01-15). "Konanykhin Hearing Begins | The Moscow Times Archive | The Moscow Times". Themoscowtimes.ru. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- "U.S. Judge Rules Konanykhin Can Stay, For Now, THE MOSCOW TIMES - The Moscow Times (Russia) | HighBeam Research - FREE trial". Highbeam.com. 2004-01-28. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- "U.S. Rethinks Konanykhin Case | | The Moscow Times Archive". The Moscow Times. 2004-01-29. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- "US COURT TO HEAR FORMER RUSSIAN BANKER'S CASE JANUARY 26 | Online news | RIA Novosti". En.rian.ru. 2004-01-16. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- 13.01.2004 (2004-01-13). "US authorities arrested Khodorkovsky's former partner - 3". English pravda.ru. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- Jeff Sanford. "Geopolitics: The new Cold War | Managing | Strategy | Canadian Business Online". Canadianbusiness.com. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- "Konanykhin Finds No Freedom in U.S. | | The Moscow Times Archive". The Moscow Times. 2004-01-19. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- "Immigration panel backs off effort to deport Russian banker - Baltimore Sun". Articles.baltimoresun.com. 2004-01-28. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
- "Russian Banker Released From Custody In USA | Online News | Ria Novosti". En.rian.ru. 2004-01-29. Retrieved 2010-12-28.