Yevgeny Chichvarkin once took London by storm. Bounding onto the stage at the Russian Economic Forum four years ago in red sneakers, graffiti-sprayed jeans, and a top that proclaimed that he was MADE IN MOSCOW, the 34-year-old Russian businessman told the elite gathering how he’d grown his Evroset mobile-phone company into a billion-dollar empire in just five years, and that a “new generation of young businesspeople” was “ready to integrate Russia into the world economy.”Read the rest here.
Now Chichvarkin is back in London, no longer a poster boy for Russian investment but instead a fugitive. Two of his business partners are in jail, his company has been sold off after a series of raids by Russian police, and his mother died under mysterious circumstances in April. Chichvarkin himself is wanted on charges of kidnapping and extortion, which he insists were cooked up by a gang of “werewolves in uniform”—bureaucrats and police who use the law to shake down and steal businesses.
Chichvarkin has joined Russia’s Generation Exile, a tide of businessmen, lawyers, accountants, and bankers who have fled their country after being robbed and threatened by Russia’s corrupt law-enforcement officials. Transparency International, an NGO, estimates that fully one third of Russian businesses have been targeted in attempted corporate raids by police. An anti-raider hotline set up by the Moscow city hall reported a 10-fold jump in complaints, from 200 to more than 2,000, over the last year. And while it is hard to calculate exactly how many of the estimated 300,000 Russians living in London are the victims or beneficiaries of police-backed shakedowns, the number of business exiles afraid to return to their homeland for fear of arrest is certainly in the thousands. According to a survey last year by the Moscow-based Levada Center, many more may exit voluntarily: 13 percent of 1,600 respondents said they wanted to leave Russia, the same percentage as in 1992, a year after the collapse of the Soviet Union.