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2 January 1940|
|Died||9 October 2009
|Occupation||Thief, gangster, racketeer, drug-trafficker|
|Criminal penalty||10 years in American prison and 10 in Russian prison camp|
Vyacheslav Kirillovich Ivankov (Russian: Вячесла́в Кири́ллович Иванько́в) (January 2, 1940 – October 9, 2009) was a notorious member of the Russian Mafia who was believed to have connections with Russian state intelligence organizations and their organized crime partners. He has operated in both the Soviet Union and the United States. His nickname, "Yaponchik" (Япончик) translates from Russian as "Little Japanese", due to his faintly Mongoloid facial features.
Ivankov was born in Georgia, when it was part of the Soviet Union, to ethnically Russian parents, Olga Gostasvits and Bernard Royal-Ivankov. He grew up in Moscow. Ivankov was an amateur wrestler in his youth and served his first prison time for his participation in a bar fight, in which he claimed he was defending the honor of a woman. After his release, he began to move up in the criminal world, selling goods on the black market. Later Ivankov became involved in gang activity. His gang used forged police documents to enter houses and then burglarize them. In 1974, in Butyrka prison he was "crowned" i.e. awarded by criminal brotherhood the title of vor v zakone (thief in law).
In 1982, authorities had finally caught up with him and he was arrested on firearms, forgery and drug-trafficking charges. Though he was sentenced to fourteen years he was released in 1991, reportedly thanks to the intervention of a powerful politician and a bribed judge of the Russian supreme court.
Moving to the United States
Ivankov arrived in the United States in March 1992, despite having served a prison sentence of around ten years and a reputation as one of the fiercest and one of the most brutal criminals in Russia. Unlike the Cosa Nostra, where the boss gives out the orders, Ivankov used to go out and extort himself. He had arrived on a regular business visa stating that he would be working in the film industry.
His reason for arriving in America was not initially clear. The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs advised the FBI that Ivankov had come to "manage and control Russian Organized Crime activities in this country", advice that the FBI took on board. However Alexander Grant, editor for newspaper Novoye Russkoye Slovo said in 1994 Ivankov had left Russia because it was too dangerous for him there, since there are "new criminal entrepreneurs who don't respect the likes of Yaponchik" and that he was not criminally active in the United States. However, soon Ivankov did become criminally active in the United States. The actual scope of his activities is unclear, since conflicting sources describe his gang on Brighton Beach as around 100 members strong and being the "premier Russian crime group in Brooklyn" to something on the scale of Lucky Luciano's nationwide Mafia Commission many decades earlier.
Ivankov was arrested by the FBI on June 8, 1995, charged with the extortion of $2.7 million from an investment advisory firm known as Summit run by two Russian businessmen, and in June the next year he was convicted along with multiple codefendants. At the time of his arrest, Ivankov was found to be in possession of thousands of dollars and many different passports under different names and countries. A .38 calibre revolver wrapped in a sock was determined by witnesses to have been thrown from the apartment in which Ivankov resided.
During interviews in prison, Ivankov accused the FBI of inventing the "myth" of the Russian mafia in order to prove the usefulness of their Russian division. He stated that Russia "is one uninterrupted criminal swamp," the main criminals being the Kremlin and the FSB and that anybody who thinks he is the leader of the so-called Russian mafia is foolish.
Return to Russia
On July 13, 2004 Ivankov was deported to Russia to face murder charges over two Turkish nationals who were shot in a Moscow restaurant following a heated argument in 1992. A third was seriously wounded in the alleged incident. The jury found him not guilty and he was acquitted the same day on July 18, 2005. The witnesses, a police officer among them, claimed to have never have seen him in their lives.
On July 28, 2009, at around 19:20 Moscow time (1620 GMT), Ivankov was shot while leaving a restaurant on Khoroshevskoye Road in Moscow. A sniper rifle was found abandoned in a nearby parked vehicle.
Having died from his injuries seventy-three days later, on October 9, 2009, Ivankov was buried in Moscow on October 13, 2009. The funeral was well-publicised, receiving widespread media attention in Russia and worldwide. In attendance were hundreds of gangsters representing criminal syndicates from around the former USSR, each sending their own tributes. One card at the funeral read "From the Dagestani Bratva", another "From the Kazakh Bratva" and one elaborate wreath came from Aslan "Grandpa Hassan" Usoyan who was not himself in attendance. It is suspected that the murder was carried out as part of an ongoing gang war between Usoyan and Georgian crime boss Tariel Oniani, where Ivankov took Usoyan's side.
- The Chekist Takeover of the Russian State, Anderson, Julie (2006), International Journal of Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence, 19:2, 237 – 288.
- Gene Mustain and Jerry Capeci (1997-04-21). "Infamous from Moscow to N.Y.". NYDailyNews.com. Retrieved 2009-10-15.
- James O. Finckenauer; Elin J. Waring (1998). Russian Mafia in America: Immigration, Culture, and Crime. Boston: Northeastern University Press. p. 113. ISBN 1-55553-374-4.
- BBC News – Russian gangland boss acquitted
- BBC News (July 28, 2009). Russian mafia boss Yaponchik shot. BBC News, July 28, 2009. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8173631.stm.
- В Москве умер Вячеслав Иваньков — «вор в законе» Япончик
- Schwirtz, Michael (2009-10-13). "For a Departed Mobster, Some Roses but No Tears". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-13.
- The Times – Russia salutes its mafia as the good guys, October 25 2009