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Taivanchik Hearing Ordered to Stay Put

Published: August 13, 2002 (Issue # 794)


ROME - An Italian court ruled that extradition hearings for Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, an alleged Russian mobster accused on U.S. charges of fixing Olympic ice skating, will not be moved from Venice to Tuscany, the suspect's lawyer said Saturday.

Lawyer Luca Saldarelli had requested the move, saying that his client had been picked up by police in the Tuscan seaside resort of Forte dei Marmi and should be processed there.

Prosecutors noted that the suspect was formally arrested in Venice and they argue that the attempted move was a stalling tactic.

"The Venice court decided [Friday]," Saldarelli said by phone from his home in Tuscany. "But I'm still awaiting word from a high court in Rome regarding a request I made challenging the initial arrest. They should decide on that next month."

This legal challenge is based on Saldarelli's argument that authorities illegally transported Tokhtakhounov from his Forte dei Marmi home to Venice before officially arresting him.

Court officials and prosecutors were unavailable for comment Saturday.

U.S. prosecutors say Tokhtakhounov, who is nicknamed "Taivanchik," because of his asian appearance, persuaded a French judge to vote for the Russian pairs team at the Salt Lake Olympics, and a Russian to vote in turn for the French ice-dancing team.

Italian police have released limited - and sometimes unclear - transcripts from wiretapped conversations between Tokhtakhounov and various callers including alleged discussions of fixing.

A scandal broke out after Russians Yelena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze won Olympic gold by the slimmest of margins in pairs figure skating on Feb. 11, defeating Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. A week after the pairs competition, the ice-dancing team of Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat won France's first gold in figure skating since 1932.

A day after the Russians won, French judge Marie-Reine le Gougne said she had been pressured to vote for them. She insists she had nothing to do with any fixing scheme.

The judging flap, resulted in a duplicate set of gold medals being awarded to the Canadian pairs team.

Italian police say they came across Tokhtakhounov during a wide Russian- mafia investigation. His representatives say he was merely a successful businessman who enjoyed spending time with celebrities and athletes.

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Thursday, Nov. 27


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Tickets are still available for local KHL team SKA St. Petersburg’s showdown with Siberian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Ice Palace outside the Prospekt Bolshevikov metro station. Tickets can be purchased on the team’s website, at the arena box office or in their merchandise store on Nevsky Prospekt.


Celebrate one of Russian literature’s most tragic figures during Blok Days, a two-day celebration of the 134th anniversary of the poet’s birthday. The tragic tenor’s work, which led to writer Maxim Gorky to hail him as Russia’s greatest living poet before his death in 1921, will be recited and meetings and discussions about his contributions to the Silver Age of literature in St. Petersburg will be discussed in the confines of his former residence.



Friday, Nov. 28


Join table game aficionados at the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening. Held every Friday at 5 p.m., aficionados and amateurs alike can come take part in a variety of different games that test one’s intellect and cunning.



Saturday, Nov. 29


Cats, dogs, birds, rodents and reptiles are just some of the things that will walk and crawl at Lenexpo convention center this weekend as part of Zooshow, a two-day exhibition featuring not only man’s best friends but a four-legged fashion show, as well as a food fair that will help pet owners find out more about which kibbles are best for their hungry pets.



Sunday, Nov. 30


Remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Russo-Finnish war in 1939 during today’s reenactment titled “Winter War: How it Was.” More than 200 people will take part in recreating the opening salvoes of the battle for the north in Kamenka, a small village situated between Vyborg and St. Petersburg, using authentic equipment and vintage vehicles from the era. The faux battle begins at 2 p.m.



Monday, Dec. 1


Serbia filmmaker Emir Kusturica is the featured guest this evening at the Lensovet Palace of Culture the Petrograd Side. Fans of the director will get the chance to watch his movie “Black Cat, White Cat,” as well as ask questions about his award-winning filmography. Tickets for the event, which starts at 7 p.m., start at 2,000 rubles ($42.50).



Tuesday, Dec. 2


Today is the final day of “Takoy Festival,” a three-week program of plays based on the works of Dostoevsky, Remarque and other famed European writers, whose work is transcribed for theatrical performances. Tonight’s festival finale is “Fathers and Sons,” a two-act drama staged by the Novosibirsk Academic Drama Theater based on Turgenev’s classic about familial relations.



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