Crime scene (photo by News.Ru)
Samara, Russia -- on December 4, Alexander Samoylenko, chief of the Itera-Samara oil company and a former executive for Russian carmaker AvtoVAZ was murdered in an apparent contract killing. Mr. Samoylenko was shot dead Monday evening while leaving work in his Lexus. The vehicle was riddled with bullets from a Kalashnikov assault rifle, and seven bullets struck the businessman, killing him instantly. A friend who was in the car with him suffered multiple gunshot wounds.
The killer escaped in a Russian-made Zhiguli, which was found a few minutes later on a residential street. The killer set the getaway car on fire to cover his tracks, and no one has been arrested in connection with this murder. Police suspect that Samoylenko was killed due to his present and past business affiliations. Samara's local government has just changed leadership, and there have been several attacks on regional businessmen. These attacks may be part of an attempt to re-distribute financial power in the city. Itera is a prominent Russian oil company, and there are many potential enemies in Samara who could have wanted Samoylenko dead. Another possible reason for this murder could have been Samoylenko's previous position with AvtoVAZ - the largest car manufacturer in Russia. Over 500 people affiliated with AvtoVAZ have been murdered in contract killings since 1992.
Even though Russian cars are of poor quality compared to similar-priced imports, the Russian government's protectionist policies keep car prices high, and the duties and transport fees for foreign vehicles are astronomical. For example, a brand new 2007 Acura MDX costs $80,000 in Russia; the same model only costs $40,000 in the U.S. AvtoVAZ has a very strong lobbying group in Moscow. Common Russians are left with the choice of buying an overpriced used foreign vehicle or a pricey but lower-quality Russian car. A member of my family just sold his 1998 Toyota Camry, which needs major repairs, for $10,500. The price of a new Zhiguli Model 10 (product of AvtoVAZ) is $10,500; however it will likely need much more maintenance than a '98 Camry.
Vaz-2110, also known as "Zhiguli Model 10", or "Lada 10"
Exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky has been charged with multiple crimes dating from the time he acquired AvtoVAZ (the Franco-Russian film Oligarkh, a thinly veiled biography of Berezovsky, portrays this part of his career). Many criminal organizations are involved in stealing and re-selling AvtoVAZ vehicles. In the last few years, the Russian government has exerted a tighter grip on the situation around AvtoVAZ, and this combined with new management has resulted in more transparent business practices. Although AvtoVAZ has been forced to pay back taxes, the recent reforms have actually led to higher profits for the company due to reduced fraud and theft committed by employees.
However, many criminal gangs lost money as a result of this new transparency. Now anyone involved with AvtoVAZ faces the threat of being "punished" for their previous "misdeeds" by these criminals.
In June 2006, Vice-President of AvtoVAZagregat, Boris Selivanov was killed in Tolyatti, the company's hometown. In October 2006, Igor Lisyutin, CEO of AvotVAZ daughter-company Eleks-Polyus, survived an attempt on his life in Moscow.
No matter what the reason for the murder was, it is very sad to see certain groups reviving criminal practices which were popular in Russia in the 1990s.