October 9, 2009 / 4:08 PM / 10 years ago

Top Russian mobster dies after July sniper attack

MOSCOW, Oct 9 (Reuters) - A Russian mafia godfather died on Friday from injuries he suffered in a Moscow sniper attack in late July, investigators said.

Vyacheslav Ivankov, nicknamed Yaponchik, or the little Japanese due to his Asiatic eyes, died in hospital aged 69 after he was severely wounded in the stomach on July 28. "We have received official confirmation from one of Moscow’s medical establishments of the death of Vyacheslav Ivankov," Russian investigators said on their official website sledcomproc.ru.

Russian news agencies had said Ivankov was mediating between two rival criminal groups before he was shot from 70 metres as he left a Thai restaurant. His killer, who is still at large, fired from a car parked on the opposite side of a highway, investigators said.

Named by the United States as a senior Russian mobster, the multi-tattooed criminal spent most of the 1990s in a U.S. high-security prison for extorting $3.5 million from two Russian immigrants, RIA news agency reported.

He was extradited to Russia in 2004 to face murder charges but was acquitted by a local court and freed.

Russian detectives have said Ivankov was one of the most influential figures of the Russian underworld. He was born in Russia in 1940 and served time in a Soviet jail before fleeing to the United States in the early 1990s.

(Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman; editing by David Stamp)

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