Russian mafia godfather on trial in US

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The Independent Online
New York - Federal prosecutors hope the trial starting today of an alleged Russian mafia godfather accused of extorting money from a Wall Street investment firm will expose a much larger web of secrets about Russian organised crime in North America, writes David Usborne.

Vyacheslav Ivankov, 56, arrested a year ago in the Brighton Beach neighbourhood of Brooklyn, otherwise known as "Little Odessa" because of the many emigres from the former Soviet Union who live there, is believed to be the most powerful Russian mobster to have set up operations in North America.

As well as pursuing extortion charges, prosecutors will try to prove his status as a boss in Brighton Beach's Russian underworld community and link him to crimes including bribery, money-laundering, drug-dealing and murder. "What makes this case important is involvement of members of organised crime at the highest levels," said Zachary Carter, US attorney in Brooklyn.