Semion Mogilevich & Vladimir Putin’s Relationship Explained

Vladimir Putin

Getty Russian President Vladimir Putin

Semion Mogilevich is one of the five notorious fugitives featured on Netflix’s World’s Most Wanted, which dropped on the streaming platform on August 5. The documentary series focuses on criminals who have evaded the law for decades, and one episode focuses on Ukrainian-born Russian businessman and suspected mobster Mogilevich.

Many agencies consider Mogilevich to be the “boss of bosses” of the Russian mafia and the leader of the Red Mafia. The FBI added him to their Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list in 2009 for his involvement in international criminal activities including money laundering, contract murders, extortion, weapons and drug trafficking and prostitution.

Mogilevich was removed from the most wanted list a few years ago because he is living freely in Moscow, Russia, a country that does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S. According to a Russian defector, Mogilevich and Russian president Vladimir Putin have a “good relationship” since the 1990s. Here’s what you need to know:

Russian FSB Defector Alexander Litvinenko Tied Mogilevich to Putin Before His Assassination in 2015

Alexander Litvinenko was an officer in the Russian FSB secret service before he defected to the United Kingdom. In November 2006, the former officer suddenly fell ill and was hospitalized,  dying in the hospital 23 days later from what was confirmed to be a case of poisoning. A public inquiry into his death found that Litvinenko was deliberately poisoned by two Russian men, a murder that was “probably” approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A year before his death, Litvinenko recorded a tape in which he claimed that Putin had a “good relationship” with Mogilevich. He accused the Ukrainian mobster of selling weapons to al-Qaeda, Business Insider reported. The former claim echoes another made in 2009 by Leonid Derkach, the former head of the Ukrainian security service, during Mogilevich’s arrest in Russia. According to a published record of a conversation between Derkach and the former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, Derkach told Kuchma, “[Mogilevich]’s on good terms with Putin. He and Putin have been in contact since Putin was still in Leningrad.”

In fact, one Czech news outlet wrote that Mogilevich is believed to be the main link between the Kremlin and Russian criminal organizations.

Mogilevich Is Also Believed to Have Ties to Many Other Russian Leaders & Businessmen

Mogilevich’s name was mentioned frequently since U.S. President Donald Trump’s election victory in 2016 and the Mueller Report’s investigation into Russian efforts to interfere in the election. The connection is Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch with suspected ties to the Russian mob (and Mogilevich), who has also been tied to Trump’s inner circle.

In 2008, Firtash was the business partner of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. The project they intended to collaborate on was an $895 million redevelopment plan for the Drake Hotel in New York, NBC News reported. Firtash is facing an indictment in the U.S. on bribery charges and was arrested in Vienna.

During a meeting with U.S. State Department officials in Ukraine, Firtash spoke about his connection to Mogilevich. “Firtash acknowledged that he needed, and received, permission from Mogilevich when he established various businesses, but he denied any close relationship to him,” a State Department cable read. Firtash said the reality of the business world in Ukraine in the early 2000s was that Russian mafia also had to be involved.

He added that: “It was impossible to approach a government official for any reason without also meeting with an organized crime member at the same time,” the cable reported. These cables also indicated that Firtash said he joined with Mogilevich in purchasing a 50% stake in a natural gas company.

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