One of the five fugitives featured on Netflix’s new docu-series, World’s Most Wanted, is notorious Ukrainian-Russian mobster, Semion Mogilevich. The indicted criminal is thought to be the “boss of bosses” of Russian mafia syndicates and was once one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted fugitives.
He has been called the “most dangerous mobster in the world” and the FBI wrote that he is at the head of a vast international criminal enterprise that controls and influences governments and economies, with a money-laundering network spanning 27 countries. “Victims don’t mean anything to him,” an FBI agent said of the “ruthless criminal.”
“With him, it’s all about money — money and influence,” the agent added. “And the really chilling thing is that he seems willing to work with any criminals, regardless of their ideology.” Although a lot is known about his criminal activities, Mogilevich’s personal life is a bit more shadowed.
Here’s what you need to know about Semion Mogilevich’s family:
1. He Is Married to Katalin Papp & Has Three Children
Most news articles about Mogilevich refer to him having three children with his Hungarian wife, Katalin Papp. In an interview with the New York Times, Mogilevich said he married his Hungarian girlfriend after only a short whirlwind romance. Their first child together was a son.
However, in other reports about Mogilevich’s activities, there are also brief mentions of other children. For instance, in a 1999 New York Times piece on Mogilevich, the outlet wrote that when he wanted to open a bank account in the West, he paid a lawyer $500,000 a year to do so. The lawyer’s wife, the outlet reports, was “also the mother of a son by Mr. Mogilevich.”
This would indicate either that not all of Mogilevich’s three children were with Papp, or he has more than three children. An FBI document seems to indicate that he has three children in total, one named Mila with his ex-wife Tatiana, one son with his wife Papp, and one son with his ex-wife Galina.
2. There Are Reports of Mogilevich Having Other Wives or Mistresses
Some news outlets have reported on mistresses or other wives in addition to Papp, with three wives being the most commonly quoted number. One of his ex-wives is Tatiana Mogilevich, who is referred to in an FBI document as a resident of Los Angeles. Another ex-wife or ex-mistress frequently mentioned is Galina Telesh or Galina Grigorieva, although it’s not clear if both are the same person.
One Czech newspaper wrote in 2004 that Mogilevich “married for the third time” when he married Papp, who was referred to as the Hungarian “Katalina Pappová.” The outlet reported that after their marriage, he was able to relocate to Budapest under the Marriage Reunification Act.
A Foreign Policy article from 2014 explored the links between Dmytro Firtash and Ukrainian-Russian criminal organizations and found that 34% of Firtash’s company had Galina Telesh, Mogilevich’s ex-wife, as the director between 2001 and 2003. Telesh is also mentioned in a Financial Times article. It references an Israeli police report that indicated that Mogilevich was in a long-term relationship with Telesh since the early 1990s.
Another piece on Mogilevich wrote that the major stockholders in some of his ventures were a “52-year-old Ukrainian-born ex-wife, Tatiana, and their 28-year-old daughter Mila, a blue-eyed blonde, who lived on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, as well as Mogilevich’s ex-mistress Galina Grigorieva.”
3. Some Outlets Report That He Had Another Child With the Wife of a London Lawyer
There have been a few mentions in articles about a mistress or ex-wife of Mogilevich’s, an unnamed woman who was also reported to be the wife of a London lawyer. The New York Times reported that a partner at one of his original companies, Arigon, was his mistress and also the wife of Mogilevich’s London lawyer. This woman was also “the mother of a son by him.”
As previously mentioned, another Times article reported that Mogilevich paid this London lawyer $500,000 a year to set him up with a bank account in the West, and made reference to Mogilevich’s son with that lawyer’s wife.
In one article about the Russian mafia, there is a reference to Galina being the wife of the lawyer. The article states that British solicitor Adrian Churchward married Mogilevich’s ex-wife, Galina Vassilyevna Grigorieva, and raised his young son, sending him to a private school in Kent.
4. Mogilevich Is Believed to Have Married His Wife on a Whim or To Obtain Hungarian Citizenship
Mogilevich married Katalin Papp, a Hungarian national. In 1991, because of his marriage, he was able to legally emigrate to Budapest, Hungary, where he began the groundwork of building an international criminal enterprise. The Village Voice reported that his criminal organization was built in the style of a typical mafia family and that many of the 250 members are his relatives.
After his move to Hungary, one American law enforcement official said, “There is nothing he does not control there, from prostitution up — extortion, drugs, everything.” Mogilevich, however, has denied all allegations of criminal activity, and told the New York Times in 1999: “I am not a leader or an active participant of any criminal group. At any rate, neither me nor any of my acquaintances have been convicted” of organized crime in Russia.
In an interview with the Times, he said that he moved to Budapest in 1991 because “he had fallen in love with a woman there during a one-week vacation.” He added that they were married and had a son together.
5. He Was Born in 1946 in Ukraine to a Russian Jewish Family
An FBI press release issued in 2009 when Mogilevich was added to the Ten Most Wanted list says he was born on June 30, 1946, in Kyiv, Ukraine, but he sometimes puts July 5, 1946, as an alternate date of birth. The Village Voice reported that Mogilevich is Jewish, but not much is known about his upbringing. According to the outlet, he received an economics degree from the University of Lvov, sparking his nickname of “Brainy Don.”
Mogilevich got his criminal start defrauding other Jews, according to the Voice’s reporting on hundreds of classified American and Israeli intelligence files. In the 1970s, he first appeared on the Soviet authorities’ radar as a member of the Liubertskaya crime group in Moscow. At the time, he seemed to be involved only in petty crime and counterfeiting. In the 1980s, he began to make a larger fortune by defrauding Jewish refugees, the outlet claimed.
The Voice also wrote that Mogilevich made deals to buy assets from Jewish refugees emigrating from Russia to Israel or America. He told them he’d sell the goods at a fair price and send them the money but simply sold their assets (art and furniture) and kept the profits. The Globe and Mail wrote that he was twice sent to Siberian prisons in his early years, where he made important connections with higher-level mobsters.
In a 1999 interview with a Hungarian newspaper, the New York Times reported that Mogilevich denied involvement in all criminal activities. “I consider myself a law-respecting citizen who works in earnest and pays taxes regularly,” he said.