- Title: RUSSIA: Deputy chairman of Russia's central bank killed in contract 'hit'
- Date: 15th September 2006
- Summary: (W2) MOSCOW, RUSSIA (FILE - 1989) (REUTERS) ANDREI KOZLOV SPEAKING AT NEWS CONFERENCE JOURNALISTS LISTENING WIDE OF NEWS CONFERENCE GIVEN BY ANDREI KOZLOV
- Embargoed: 30th September 2006 13:00
- Topics: Crime / Law Enforcement,Finance
- Reuters ID: LVAEETU2WX4VL7M41J1VJRC8Y6CY
- Story Text: A Russian central banker who fought to clean up his country's murky banking system died early on Thursday (September 14) from gunshot wounds after being ambushed by assassins in what police said was a contract 'hit'.
The killing of Andrei Kozlov, 41, a respected first deputy chairman of the Central Bank, was the highest-profile assassination in Moscow during the six years President Vladimir Putin has been in power.
Kozlov had led a fearless campaign to close banks suspected of involvement in money laundering. Gunmen fired on him as he left a football match between bank employees on Wednesday night.
Kozlov fell to the ground bleeding from the head and chest and was rushed to hospital, where he died a few hours later after emergency surgery. His driver was killed on the spot.
Russia's prime minister and the cabinet stood for a minute's silence on Thursday to honour Kozlov as tributes poured in from Moscow's political and business elite.
Gunmen shot Kozlov several times as he left a football match between bank employees on Wednesday night. He was rushed to hospital but died after emergency surgery.
Kozlov had led a campaign to clean up Russia's banking system by pulling the licenses of banks suspected of money laundering and other financial crimes.
Colleagues said his push to fight corrupt banks would have placed him in direct conflict with powerful crime groups.
Kozlov's murder plunged Russia's financial establishment into shock. With his department closing banks at the rate of two or three a week, Kozlov had no shortage of enemies and his colleagues said he had paid the ultimate price for his zeal.
The head of Russia's Regional Banks Association said on Thursday the killing smacked of the contract killings which bedevilled Russia during the 1990's.
"I would like to believe that this tragic event will not have serious effects [on the Russian banking system], but from an emotional point of view it seems we stepped back in time 10 years in terms of the methods that were used to solve problems," said Andrei Murychev.
Russia's banking system grew out of chaos after the collapse of the Soviet Union when violence was a part of doing business. One analyst said the attack showed the sector had still not shaken off its past.
Contract-style killings of wealthy businessmen and bankers were common in the 1990s but they tapered off after Putin came to power in 2000.
Only last week, Kozlov had called at a banking forum in the southern city of Sochi for much tougher penalties against bankers found guilty of money laundering.
Kozlov's killing was uncomfortable news for Putin who has consistently trumpeted the stability he has brought to Russia in the year Moscow heads the G8 group of economic powers.
After overseeing years of rapid economic growth, Putin now wants a trouble-free political climate in which to prepare an orderly presidential succession in 2008.
The Kremlin declined immediate comment on Kozlov's killing.
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