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15 Georgians detained in US for membership of Russian gang

By Tea Mariamidze
Monday, June 12
The US has detained famous Georgian boxer Avtandil Khurtsidze and sentenced him to two-month pre-trial detention on charges of being a member of a Russian criminal syndicate. Khurtsidze is among the 15 Georgians who have been arrested.

Information over Khurtsidze’s pre-trial detention was aired through his Facebook page.

The Facebook post reported that the decision would be reviewed in several weeks and updates would be available.

Another Georgian boxer, Levan Makashvili, was also detained.

His family claims that he will be released today.

Khurtsidze’s family asks the Government of Georgia for support, claiming the sportsman is innocent and he might have appeared at the scene accidentally.

The fifteen Georgians were among 33 members of a Russian gang who were charged with racketeering, fraud, narcotics, firearms, and stolen property offences in the United States last Wednesday.

Federal authorities said that of the charged defendants, 27 are associated with a nationwide racketeering enterprise led by Razhden Shulaya and Zurab Dzanashvili, both Georgian nationals.

According to the US Department of Justice, Shulaya aka "Brother,” aka "Roma,” is known as a "vor v zakonei” – a Russian phrase translated roughly as "thief-by-law”, and which refers to an order of elite criminals from the former Soviet Union who receive tribute from other criminals, offer protection, and use their recognised status to adjudicate disputes among lower-level criminals.

As such, Shulaya had substantial influence in the criminal underworld and offered assistance to and protection to members and associates of the Shulaya Enterprise, US authorities said.

According to them, those members and associates and Shulaya himself were engaged in widespread criminal activities, including acts of violence, extortion, the operation of illegal gambling businesses, fraud in various casinos, identity theft, credit card frauds and the trafficking of large quantities of stolen goods.

The Justice Department said that the Shulaya Enterprise comprised groups of individuals often with overlapping members or associates dedicated to particular criminal tasks. According to the Department, while many of these crews were based in New York City, the Shulaya Enterprise had operations in various locations throughout the United States, including in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada and abroad.

Khutsidze was due to fight with British world champion Billy Joe Saunders in July, but the bout could now be in jeapoardy.