Businessman convicted of Russian c.banker's murder

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian businessman was found guilty on Tuesday of ordering the murder of a top Russian central banker who led a campaign against money-laundering and corruption.

The state prosecutor said Alexei Frenkel had acted out of revenge when he ordered the killing of Andrei Kozlov, the 41-year-old deputy head of Russia’s central bank who had revoked Frenkel’s banks’ licenses.

Kozlov was shot dead in September 2006 as he left an amateur soccer match in Moscow.

It was one of the highest-profile killings of then President Vladimir Putin’s presidency, reviving memories of Russia’s wild capitalism and contract killings of the 1990s.

The jury found Frenkel guilty of ordering Kozlov’s killing after deliberations of more than five hours at the Moscow City Court. Along with Frenkel, six others were convicted of charges related to the murder.

Kozlov, in a crusade against money-laundering and corruption, revoked the licenses of dozens of banks, the court was told.

“The motive for the crime was revenge,” said state prosecutor Gulchekhra Ibragimova, adding that Frenkel had lost four of the banks he controlled due to Kozlov’s tough actions.

“Kozlov was an enemy of shady dealers like Frenkel,” she told journalists outside the court. “I believe the verdict is just.”

Ibragimova said sentences would be pronounced at the end of this week.

The jurors decided to ask the court to mitigate the sentences of two of the seven found guilty, because they had cooperated with the investigation and admitted their guilt.

Defense lawyers said one of the two had bought the pistol with which Kozlov was killed, while the other was the driver of the killers’ getaway car.

Defense lawyers said they would appeal the jurors’ decision.

Frenkel, who strongly denied all accusations, had ordered a driver to pick him up at the court, apparently confident he would be acquitted, Russian media reported.

Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; editing by Andrew Roche