US anti-mob lawyer arrested in Belarus
(dpa) - Police in the authoritarian state Belarus arrested a leading US anti-mob lawyer the moment he stepped off an aeroplane, the Belapan news agency reported Tuesday.
Emanuel Zeltser is director of the American Russian Law Institute (ARLI), an NGO specializing in legal and financial sector reform in the former Soviet republics.
His location of detention and physical condition had not been made public nearly a week after his Wednesday arrest, which was only made public Tuesday.
Officials from the US embassy in Minsk confirmed uniformed police grabbed Zeltser as soon as he stepped off a London-Minsk flight, but declined to provide further details, citing a need to protect Zeltser's privacy.
Spokesmen from Zeltser's organization said the arrest was almost certainly retaliation by one or more Russian organized crime groups for Zeltser's hand in ruining lucrative money-running operations a decade ago.
Belarus' government had no immediate official comment on the allegations, but in the past has denied links between the regime of authoritarian President Aleksander Lukashenko and the Russian mob.
An ARLI statement alleged Zeltser's health could be harmed by Belarus' harsh prison conditions and claimed anti-Semitism played a role in his arrest.
An emigre from Russia to the US in the 1970s, Zeltser in the late 1990s sued Russia's Inkom bank and the American Bank of New York for operating financial schemes resulting in the loss of tens of millions of dollars of savings by US depositers.
Zeltser at the time alleged the illicit operation also laundered billions of dollars of aid money given Russia by the International Monetary Fund and other donors.
He claimed Russian mobsters attempted to kill him in 1998 by tampering with the brakes of his automobile.
Zeltser in the late 1990s testified to the US Congress of extensive Russian organized crime links with dishonest US bankers.
The ARLI later helped draft legislation tightening controls against money-laundering in the US and Russia.