Crime Watch

Vegetable Oil Mogul Hit With RPG

Dec 20, 2006
The Moscow Times

Using firepower reminiscent of the gangland wars of the 1990s, unidentified assailants fired two rocket-propelled grenades at an armored car Saturday in an apparent attempt on the life of a little-known vegetable-oil mogul.

Alexander Kurt, a former partner of billionaire Mikhail Fridman and head of Russian Oils, was in the back seat of his BMW 740iL in Moscow's Solntsevo neighborhood at around 11:30 a.m. Saturday when the car came under fire.

Assailants used a short-range, anti-tank rocket launcher known as an RPG-18 Mukha, City Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Svetlana Petrenko said.

Not having reckoned with the speed of the moving BMW, however, the assailants, who fired from about 30 meters away, missed their target, striking a nearby dacha. The dacha's balcony was destroyed and its facade damaged, Petrenko said.

The owner of the dacha, in a private dacha community, was not home at the time, and no one was injured in the blast, Petrenko said.

Prosecutors have classified the attack as attempted murder. They have not ruled out a connection between the attack and Kurt's business activities, Petrenko said. No suspects had been detained as of Tuesday.

Olga Yolkina, a spokeswoman for Russian Oils, said in an interview Tuesday that it would be inappropriate to comment before the investigation had ended.

Kurt could not be reached for comment.

In a profile of Kurt last year, the business magazine Kompaniya portrayed him as having been a virtual unknown when he formed Russian Oils in 2005 after buying three vegetable oil plants in the Stavropol and Krasnodar regions.

Kurt said he entered the business world in the late 1980s, when he co-founded a window-washing company called Kuryer with Fridman, the head of Alfa Group, Vedomosti reported last year.

In February, Finans business magazine estimated Kurt was worth $45 million, making him the 535th richest man in Russia.

Russian Oils, which produces Rus and Zlatitsa vegetable oil, reported revenues totaling $113 million this year, Itar-Tass reported.

While RPG rocket-launcher attacks have largely faded from public view since the turf wars of the last decade, they are not unheard of.

On Nov. 30, unidentified assailants fired on the owner of several gambling halls in Samara with automatic weapons, following up with an RPG.

In May, Moscow police arrested a man who had tried to sell a Mukha RPG-18 to a car wash attendant for $500. The man claimed he found the weapon in a nearby forest; he was charged with trying to sell an illegal weapon.

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