I thought I'd be safe, this kind of thing can't happen here

Banker German Gorbuntsov relives the moment he was shot six times on the streets of London. By Shaun Walker

Friday 08 June 2012 10:12
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German Gorbuntsov is now recovering in hospital
German Gorbuntsov is now recovering in hospital

German Gorbuntsov, the Russian banker who was shot six times in an attempted assasination in London in March, has called on Russia to mount an "honest" investigation into the hit, and arrest the high-powered businessmen he believes were behind it.

Mr Gorbuntsov, speaking from his hospital bed where he has round-the-clock protection from 20 armed police guards, says he thinks people with connections at the top of the Russian government were behind the attack on 20 March, when a lone assassin fired at him as he entered his rented flat on Byng Street in the capital's Docklands.

In an interview with i, the first time he has spoken to a journalist since the shooting that put him in a coma, Mr Gorbuntsov said he believed his former business partners were behind the attack. "I ask the authorities to be honest and to investigate what happened in a fair way," he said. "I want them to question me quickly, and hand over documents to Britain quickly."

The men he named claim to be friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Mr Gorbuntsov, which, he said, could explain why Russian authorities have been slow to investigate.

Speaking slowly, and frequently pausing apparently from pain, Mr Gorbuntsov spoke via a Skype internet connection set up from the Moscow office of his lawyers. He says he has been repeatedly questioned by British detectives, but that nobody from Russia has been to see him. "The evidence I have is enough to put them behind bars," he said. "Of course they have good connections, but I would like to believe that there is justice in Russia."

The 45-year-old banker had fled to London to hide from his former business partners and says nobody knew where he was living. In the days running up to the attack he noticed that he was being followed. "But I thought that in London you are safe, and this kind of thing can't happen here," he said.

He did not see the person who shot him, but can remember events well. "I got out of the taxi, and went to the entrance," he said. "I began to enter the code when I started to feel pain.

"I understood that I was being shot at. I opened the door quickly, jumped inside, slammed it shut, slammed the second one shut, and jumped towards the lift, which you can't see from the street. During this time he kept shooting at me, and hit me six times."

Mr Gorbuntsov, who has been told not to disclose his current location, said he is guarded by at least eight people at any one time and he feels completely safe. Doctors have told him his condition is now stable, but that he will need to remain in hospital for between six weeks and three months. "I'm learning how to walk again," he said.

He and his lawyers believe that the attack came because the banker was preparing to give evidence to Russian prosecutors over another botched assassination attempt, on his former business partner Alexander Antonov. Mr Antonov, father of Vladimir Antonov, former owner of Portsmouth Football Club, was shot in Moscow in 2009 but survived. Mr Gorbuntsov himself had been a suspect in the attack, due to a financial disagreement with Mr Antonov, but he claims the disagreements were manufactured by the former business partners. "We had our disagreements, but when everything happened with Antonov [the attempted assassination], we met and talked things over. It became clear the same people had created disagreements between us where there were none."

When he also fell out with the same men he believes were behind the attack on Mr Antonov, Mr Gorbuntsov fled to London in 2010, fearing for his safety. He had been seeking political asylum, and was sure that in London he would be safe. "This is a country where there is justice, and where the police look into things properly," he said.

In the days after the assassination attempt, he had been planning to meet with a delegation of Russian investigators in London and implicate his former business partners in the murder attempt on Mr Antonov. "I think firstly it was because I was ready to give evidence," he said, of the reasons behind the decision to have him killed. "They decided that if there is no person, there's no problem."

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