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ESPN REPORTS OF RUSSIAN MAFIA CONNECTION TO PAVEL BURE
Published November 4, 1996
As part of an eight-month investigation by ESPN, Bob Ley reported that beyond rumors of Russian mafia extorting money from some Russian NHL players, ESPN "has learned, and American intelligence and Senate investigators have learned independently," that Canucks F Pavel Bure "is a corporate officer in a company suspected to being a major front for the Russian mafia." The company, 21st Century Association, is headed by Anzor Kikalichvili. Ley noted Bure "makes no secret of his personal and business ties with [Kikalichvili] believed by numerous investigative agencies to be a mafia leader." Bure, asked on camera if he knew Kikalichvili had reported ties to Russian mafia. Bure: "I heard about this. But I don't think that's true." Bure said he and Kikalichvili are in business together on the Bure family's watchmaking business. Kikalichvili is listed in FBI documents as "major Russian mafia kingpin." Investigators say Kikalichvili oversees "money laundering, extortion and drugs." Ley: "Multiple other sources, including one in the Russian hockey community, tell ESPN that Kikalichvili's criminal role is well-known in Moscow and, those sources say, it would be unlikely for a prominent Russian, such as Bure, to be unaware of it. In addition, investigators say that at least one other Russian NHL player is suspected of having close ties to Kikalichvili" (ESPNEWS, 11/1). LEAGUE RESPONSE: The NHL issued a statement to ESPN on the story: "Periodically, there has been speculation and rumor, about who may or may not be associated with organized crime in Russia. The National Hockey League is in constant contact with law enforcement agencies on these and on other issues, and we will take appropriate steps to protect the integrity of our game and the safety of our players whenever necessary" (ESPNEWS, 11/1).