Police launch manhunt for U.S. millionaire

  • 2008-03-26
  • By Talis Saule Archdeacon

RIGA - Police have launched an international manhunt for a well-known Russian-American millionaire who disappeared from his seaside mansion in murky circumstances shortly after arriving in Latvia.
The search for Leonid Rozhetskin, a media investor and co-owner of an American movie production company, began on March 17 after bloodstains and signs of foulplay in his Jurmala home were discovered.
"I am anxious about the case, and I understand that nothing good has happened there... There must have been some violence," State Police Chief Aldis Lieljuksis told Latvian Public Radio on March 19.

Top police officials indicated that it is probable the businessman was murdered.
"Until the body is found, nothing can be said for sure. However, even now we have some evidence that speaks in favor of a murder," Interior Minister Mareks Seglins was reported as saying.
As The Baltic Times went to press, Jurmala investigators were preparing to release the results of a blood test on the stains found in Rozhetskin's home.
While the case was initially classified as a missing person report, police representatives said that it was changed to murder on March 19 to allow for allocating more resources to the investigation.
The Russian language daily Telegraph reported that Rozhetskin was last seen taking a taxi in the vicinity of the XXL gay club with two unidentified men at approximately 2:30 a.m. on March 15. The daily reported that Rozhetskin was not seen at the club.
Rozhetskin's private plane 's which delivered the businessman to Latvia a day prior to his disappearance 's reportedly flew to Zurich without passengers the day after the incident.

Media speculation surrounding the case 's in both Latvian and British press 's has run rampant.
The Daily Mail, a U.K. publication, ran a story alleging FSB 's the Russian secret service agency that replaced the KGB 's involvement in the abduction.
The story said Latvian police had turned to Scotland Yard for help and linked the case to the high-profile murder of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
"Agents have been operating freely on the streets of London, and it is for this reason that we have approached the Metropolitan Police. If they have entered Latvia and approached this missing person in some way, then it is up to us to try to find out what is going on," the paper quoted a Latvian police official as saying.
"We require all the information we can get hold of, and this is the reason that speaking to foreign police 's including the British 's is essential," the representative said.

A police representative told The Baltic Times, however, that they had not been in touch with Scotland Yard over the case 's the police have only asked Interpol for its support in the investigation and manhunt. 
Media outlets have put forward three possible versions for the case: a deal gone bad, domestic violence or a deliberately staged disappearance.
Latvian police, however, said that it is too early in the investigation to comment on any possible motives for the disappearance.

Andrei Fomin, Rozhetskin's spokesman, publicly denied rumors that the businessman staged his own abduction. "I have no idea where he might be 's no suggestions at all. Last time I saw him was in Los Angeles in February, then later we talked on the phone when he was in London," he said.
"I think the idea that he staged the kidnapping to promote his new movie is absolutely stupid. To pour human blood for some sort of PR trick would be completely sick. I can't imagine he would do that. I think this is all extremely serious, and I desperately hope there is a happy ending to it," the spokesman said. 
Rozhetskin was born in 1966 in Leningrad 's now St. Petersburg 's and immigrated to the United States in 1980 after his father was imprisoned by the Soviet Union on what the family claims were trumped-up charges.
He received a Harvard law degree and moved back to Russia in 1992, where he became a successful businessman. He initially built his fortune as one of the founding members of Renaissance Capital, an investment bank, and later became the chairman of Norilsk Nickel, the world's largest producer of nickel.
Rozhetskin is also well known as one of the founding members of City AM, a free British newspaper, and as a former major stakeholder in MegaFon, Russia's largest mobile phone operator.

Two years ago Russian prosecutors issued a warrant for his arrest over an alleged $40 million fraud case involving a major Russian telecommunications company.
He is currently working alongside Eric Eisner, the son of former Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner, as co-owner of the Los Angeles based L+E Productions. The company is due to release its first movie in August.