A sensational dispute between Moscow billionaires with a storyline that rivals Hollywood has spilled across international borders: Surveillance photographs showed a fugitive Russian lawmaker living in Beverly Hills, California. Someone tried to hack into computers at his London law firm. And he filed a federal lawsuit in New York accusing his business rivals of trying to force him to return home.
Ashot Egiazaryan, who said he could be killed if he is forced to return to Russia, is fighting to remain in the United States despite a request by Interpol to have him arrested and deported. He came to the U.S. in early September and quickly filed a lawsuit in Cyprus and another in an arbitration court of appeal in London claiming that a politically connected group of Russian tycoons extorted him into surrendering his major stake in the historic Moskva Hotel. The multibillion dollar property sits a few steps from Red Square.
Since then, and after a published interview with The Associated Press in February, Egiazaryan said in court papers he has been subjected to continuing surveillance and a public relations smear campaign. Scotland Yard is currently investigating a report that someone tried to plant sophisticated spyware on a computer that belongs to one of his lawyers, according to a person briefed on the investigation.
Egiazaryan said the lucrative Moskva project was wrested from him in 2009 by prominent Russians including mining magnate Suleiman Kerimov, a billionaire and a member of the Russian senate, and Arkady Rotenberg, a wealthy businessman and the longtime judo partner of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. At Egiazaryan's urging, the Cyprus court temporarily froze about $8 billion in stock owned by two of Kerimov's Cyprus-based companies, OAO Polyus Gold and fertilizer maker OAO Uralkali, one of the world's leading producers of potash. The freeze came at an awkward time for Kerimov, who was in the midst of efforts to build one of the world's largest mining empires.