SBD/4/Leagues Governing Bodies

ESPN REPORTS OF RUSSIAN MAFIA CONNECTION TO PAVEL BURE

     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).
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