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Top Russian central banker shot to death

The first deputy chairman of Russia's central bank died  Thursday after being shot by gunmen outside a Moscow sports stadium, a senior doctor said.
/ Source: Reuters

The first deputy chairman of Russia's central bank died in hospital on Thursday after being shot by gunmen outside a Moscow sports stadium, a senior doctor said.

Andrei Kozlov, a high-profile figure in Russian finance who was in charge of cleaning up the murky and fragmented banking system, had undergone emergency surgery for head and body wounds after Wednesday night's attack in which his driver was killed.

"Andrei Kozlov died early this morning," Inna Sigeyeva, a deputy chief doctor at Moscow's Hospital No. 33, told Reuters.

Sources close to police investigations said the attack on Kozlov, 41, who had led an aggressive drive to shut down banks accused of money laundering and other crimes, bore the hallmarks of contract killing.

The attack could have an impact on banking stocks such as Sberbank and on the interbank market, especially if the Kremlin reacts by cracking down on banks Kozlov investigated, analysts said.

The gunmen were lying in wait for Kozlov as he emerged from the stadium in the Sokolniki district in the northeast of the Russian capital after a soccer match between bank employees.

Media reports said the gunmen fired at least four times, killing the driver Alexander Semyonov on the spot and badly wounding Kozlov before fleeing.

In a car park outside the stadium, a pool of blood could be seen next to a dark blue Mercedes car. Nearby lay a body draped in plastic sheeting.

Russia's banking system grew out of chaos after the collapse of the Soviet Union when violence was a part of doing business. One analyst said the attack showed the sector had still not shaken off its past.

Contract-style killings of wealthy businessmen and bankers were common in the 1990s but they tapered off after President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000.

A picture taken 13 September 2006 shows Russian investigators at the site of an assassination of the first deputy chairman of Russia's Central Bank, Andrei Kozlov, in Moscow. The deputy chief of Russia's central bank died 14 September 2006 after being shot outside a Moscow sports club the previous night in an apparent contract hit, the Interfax news agency reported, quoting medical sources. AFP PHOTO / KOMMERSANT / VALERY MELNIKOV - RUSSIA OUT - GETTY OUT - (Photo credit should read VALERY MELNIKOV/AFP/Getty Images)Valery Melnikov / AFP

The shooting was the highest profile attack in the capital since Anatoly Chubais, chief executive of Russia's electricity monopoly, escaped unscathed from an assassination attempt in March 2005 when his motorcade was attacked.

"We are looking at all possible versions, including (Kozlov's) professional activities, mistaken identity, and his personal relations," Moscow's chief prosecutor Yuri Syomin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

Only last week, Kozlov called at a banking forum in the southern city of Sochi for tougher penalties against bankers found guilty of money laundering.

Russia has about 1,200 banks, many of them tiny outfits with little capital.

"This event forces us to acknowledge what the central bank has been up against from a community which has its roots in the wild early years of transition," said Rory MacFarquhar, an economist at Goldman Sachs in Moscow.

Kozlov started at what was then the Soviet central bank at the age of 24. He rose quickly through the ranks to become first deputy chairman in 1997. He left two years later for a spell in the private sector, rejoining the central bank in April 2002.