November 3, 2009 / 11:42 AM / 8 years ago

Former spy shot dead near Putin's Moscow office

2 Min Read

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Gunmen shot dead a former KGB spy turned basketball tycoon in his car Monday a few hundred meters from the Moscow office of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, officials said.

Shabtai von Kalmanovic, who went on to organize a Michael Jackson concert in Moscow and help two clubs win Europe's top basketball title, died at the scene, the state prosecutor's office said in a statement.

More than 20 shots were fired at Kalmanovic's Mercedes from a silver Lada a few hundred meters from the White House, the seat of Russia's government headquarters, state Russian television channel Vesti reported.

Kalmanovic's driver, who was wounded, gave chase to the attackers but had to abandon it because of his wounds, investigators said.

Kalmanovic spent five years in an Israeli prison for passing secret military technology to the KGB before being released in 1993, state media reported.

Returning to Russia, Kalmanovic set up a market in the center of Moscow and helped organize concerts by Tom Jones, Liza Minnelli and Michael Jackson in Russia, the reports said.

The attack was likely a contract killing, senior investigator Anatoly Bagmet said, quoted by RIA news agency.

A citizen of Israel, Russia and Lithuania, Kalmanovic's financial support helped Lithuanian basketball club Zalgiris Kaunas win the Euroleague, the continent's top basketball competition, in 1999.

He helped Spartak Moscow win the women's Euroleague in each of the past three years.

Moscow and other Russian cities were hit by a wave of gangland-style shootings after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union as businessmen sought to settle disputes and carve up profits.

Although less frequent in recent years, contract killings still plague the Russian capital.

Reporting by Conor Humphries; editing by Richard Williams

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