03/31/2021 (Wed) 16:02:41
"It took just two years for Yaponchik to move from a prison camp in Siberia to the Russian mafia's top command in New York. Russia's Serious Crimes Investigator had warned me of something like this. "You people in the West don't know our mafia yet. You will, you will," he had said. He did not say how soon, however.
Yaponchik (Vyacheslav Ivankov) had barely gotten out of prison when I first went to Russia in the autumn of 1991. Sentenced to fifteen years for robbery, he had done eleven. He left Siberia in a private chartered plane and was welcomed home with a grand champagne party at Moscow's posh Metropol Hotel. For Yaponchik was no ordinary Russian crook. He was one of the chosen
of Russia's ancient Thieves' World, according to Russian police, an aristocrat of his profession and keeper of its code: "a thief within the code." (See Chapter 5.)
By the time I came across his name that autumn, he had already moved on to Berlin
where his mafia colleagues had landed in force after the fall of the Wall. A few months later he was back in Moscow draped in gold chains and driving around in a Mercedes. Then he left for America.
He arrived exactly a year after leaving Siberia, in March 1992, on a regular business visa. Getting in was easy. The American embassy in Moscow issued 139,000 business visas to Russian citizens that year.Applicants were not checked for possible criminal records, lest that might "slow the international business process,"
a Washington spokesman explained."