Russia central banker fights for life after attack

Gleb Bryanski

The first deputy chairman of Russia's central bank was fighting for his life in hospital on Thursday after gunmen with automatic weapons attacked him outside a Moscow sports stadium and killed his driver.

Andrei Kozlov, 41, a high-profile figure in Russian finance who was in charge of cleaning up the murky and fragmented banking system, underwent emergency surgery for serious gunshot wounds to his chest and stomach.

"His condition is critical but stable. We operated on him and he is in intensive care," a duty nurse at Moscow's Hospital No. 33 told Reuters.

Sources close to police investigations said Wednesday's attack on Kozlov, who has led an aggressive drive to shut down banks accused of money laundering and other crimes, bore the hallmarks of an attempted contract killing.

A law enforcement official at the hospital told Reuters security at the complex had been stepped up in case of further attacks on Kozlov.

The attack could have an impact on banking stocks such as Sberbank and on the interbank market, especially if the Kremlin reacts by cracking down on banks Kozlov investigated, analysts said.

The gunmen struck after a soccer match between bank employees at the stadium in the Sokolniki district in the northeast of the Russian capital.


In a car park outside the stadium, a pool of blood could be seen next to a dark blue Mercedes car. Nearby lay a body draped in plastic sheeting.

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 President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000.

"We are looking at all possible versions, including (Kozlov's) professional activities, mistaken identity, and his personal relations," Moscow's chief prosecutor Yuri Syomin was quoted as saying by Interfax.

Only last week, Kozlov called at a banking forum in the southern city of Sochi for tougher penalties against bankers found guilty of money laundering.

Russia has about 1,200 banks, many of them tiny outfits with little capital.

"This event forces us to acknowledge what the central bank has been up against from a community which has its roots in the wild early years of transition," said Rory MacFarquhar, an economist at Goldman Sachs in Moscow.

Kozlov started at what was then the Soviet central bank at the age of 24. He rose quickly through the ranks to become first deputy chairman in 1997. He left two years later for a spell in the private sector, rejoining the central bank in April 2002.

(Additional reporting by Douglas Busvine and Vera Kalian)

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