Editor who unmasked super-rich of Russia is shot dead in Moscow
Saturday 10 July 2004
The man who told the world exactly how wealthy Russia's super-rich are and exactly what oligarchs spend their millions on has been shot dead in Moscow in a murder that has all the hallmarks of a contract killing.
Pavel Klebnikov, the chief editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, was shot at point- blank range in a suburb of northern Moscow near the city's botanical gardens at around 10pm last night. He died later in an ambulance having taken four bullets in the chest.
Klebnikov, 41, a US citizen born in New York, was descended from White Russian émigrés who fled the country when Communists seized power.
He had made powerful enemies writing a damning book about Boris Berezovsky, the tycoon who has exiled himself in the UK, and another about a Chechen rebel field commander called Khoj-Akhmed Nukaev.
Klebnikov alleged that Mr Berezovsky, with $620m (£330m) to his name, was involved in the criminal underworld and became embroiled in a protracted court case that ended in an out-of-court settlement and an apology from Forbes.
Some said that his book about Mr Berezovsky - Godfather of the Kremlin; The Decline of Russia in the Age of Gangster Capitalism - was anti-Semitic in tone and overly critical of the tycoon at the expense of other key characters such as Russia's former president Boris Yeltsin.
In April of this year, Klebnikov ruffled feathers among Russia's super-rich when he launched the first Russian language edition of Forbes magazine, the so-called capitalist's handbook. A month later he put even more noses out of joint when the magazine published a detailed list of Russia's 100 wealthiest people, detailing exactly what assets they held and how they had made their money. Russia's elite was unimpressed.
One businessman who preferred not to be named told daily Vedemosti that he was furious with Klebnikov. "They couldn't have published this list at a worst place at a worse time," he told the newspaper.
"In our country, any discussion of personal wealth results in nothing but an increase in my blood pressure."
Unnamed sources accused Klebnikov and his colleagues of vastly over-estimating their wealth and claimed that Forbes' exercise was unseemly.
Some businessmen were irritated that their names were linked by association with Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia's richest man and number one on Forbes' list.
They said the fact that Mr Khodorkovsky was in jail on fraud and embezzlement charges might reflect badly on them.
Others took exception to the fact that Klebnikov's list included at least nine Jews and worried that they would be targeted by anti-Semites.
Many of Russia's super-rich prefer to keep information about their real worth secret, not least to avoid the clutches of Russia's increasingly conscientious tax police.
But Klebnikov, it seems, has now paid the ultimate price for ignoring these warnings.
"Russia is sick with envy .... Russia will (only) flourish when each Russian citizen learns to value his neighbour's success," Klebnikov wrote.
An ardent pro-capitalist, he believed that the new Russia had a bright future ahead.
"Today Russia is on the threshold of a new era," he wrote grandly in Forbes' first Russian edition.
"I am convinced that we will become the witnesses of a great renaissance in Russian society. Unprecedented opportunities are opening up before the (Russian) business world and new problems at the same time."
In a country where many in the media appear to be in the pockets of some of the country's super rich businessmen Klebnikov promised that Forbes would remain steadfastly independent of influence.
In an overt nod to the magazine's original founder BC Forbes, he reminded the readers that money wasn't everything and that "God, moral values and a sense of citizenship" were also important.
Klebnikov studied at the University of Berkeley in California and at the London School of Economics where he obtained a Phd in 1991. Police are investigating the killing.
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