Roman Tsepov, mafia boss

Boss of criminal group. Was founder of Baltic Escort private security agency. In addition to providing security for high-ranking city leaders, this company reportedly also rendered services for alleged criminal leaders, including Aleksandr Malyshev and several members of the Tambov organized crime group.

Was linked with Vladimir Putin and St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoliy Sobchak. Apart from providing security services for them (Viktor Zolotov was personal bodyguard provided by Baltic Escort), he was involved in corruption and illegal activities. City hall was selling licenses for casinos and most of buyers was criminal organized groups. Government officials Putin and Sobchak was shame of contacting directly with mafia, so Roman Tsepov was intermediating between them.

For example some gang wanted to open casino. They contacted Roman Tsepov and paid him 100.000 usd. He passed 80.000 usd (about 20% he took as comission for his service) to Putin and got gambling license. Then Putin shared this money with Sobchak and finally city has got about 20.000 usd from this payment. Due to unclear pricing policy, it was ultra corrupted.

Kommersant newspapper about Tsepov’s purported web of contacts: “His sphere of influence was very wide — from pharmaceuticals and protection service to ports, tourism, shipping, insurance, and even the mass media,” the newspaper wrote. “According to sources in the law-enforcement organs, Roman Tsepov kept in touch with many siloviki, from Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev to the head of the presidential [security service] Vladimir Zolotov. It is said that he was in well with deputy presidential administration chief Igor Sechin and even Vladimir Putin himself. In UBOP [the anti-organized crime directorate] it is said that Mr. Tsepov actively used those contacts to resolve business issues and also carry out delicate errands for a number of very highly placed persons. In addition, it is said that Roman Tsepov used his connections to lobby for the appointments of Interior Ministry and FSB [Federal Security Service] officers. It was precisely because of this that one of his nicknames within certain circles was ‘the Producer’ ” (Kommersant, September 25).

Roman Tsepov, with the participation of Viktor Zolotov, created a system that allowed them to be intermediaries between the government and criminal groups, between law enforcement agencies and the mafia. Then the idea arose to somehow monetize law enforcement agencies in order to get cash for closing cases – under arrest, for custom criminal cases. Roma did it well.

The whole system of power was lost in the fact that every post, general or not, was sold. What was Tsepov for? He simply received money for the appointment: chiefs of the police department, chiefs of the traffic police, and then – throughout the structure of the police department, and then – the FSB, FAPSI, the Tax Service and others. He just got money for each appointment and agreed with each one separately. It looked like this. He said to Kumarin: “You will have two chiefs of the police department!”, Mirilashvili: “You will have two chiefs of the police department!”, Kostya Grave: “You will have two chiefs of the police department!”. And to some Kzhizhevichu Kazan: “You will have one chief of police department!”. When he asked why only one, Roma answered him: “Because you have 100 fighters, and Kumarin – 300! Therefore, you are not allowed yet”.

Moskovskiye novosti reported in July 2004 that Tsepov had presented himself to Yukos shareholders as essentially having been commissioned by Sechin, Zolotov, and even Putin to “come to terms” with the embattled oil company. “As soon as the ‘Kremlin representative’ asked for a big advance on his services, his powers were called into question. Tsepov’s former relationship with Zolotov and Sechin and possibly also with Putin is a hard fact, but the level and quality of his present-day contacts are, basically, a matter of speculation” (Moskovskiye novosti, July 9).

Following word of Tsepov’s death, the journalist Yulia Latynina said on her Ekho Moskvy radio program that Tsepov had reportedly told Yukos that he represented Sechin’s interests and had full authority to resolve the conflict with the company as long as he and Gennady Timchenko were put on Yukos’ board of directors. Britain’s Telegraph has described Timchenko as “a Kremlin insider and oil trader” who shares a KGB past with Putin and is “very close” to the Russian president (see EDM, July 28). Latynina said, “But what’s interesting is that when I was told this story — and a lot of people told me it — I had the impression that Mr. Tsepov … didn’t understand that this [deal] is for others, and that, in essence, these people didn’t need a representative in the person of Mr. Tsepov” (Ekho Moskvy, September 25).

He was poisoned by Polonium-210 (same as Alexander Litvinenko in 2006) on September 9, 2004 by an FSB agent Dmitry Mikhalchenko in the office of the head of FSB in St. Petersburg during an unofficial visit. A year earlier he said in an interview to the newspaper what is personally acquainted with Vladimir Putin.