gall and gumption

Thursday, March 31, 2005

The King of Siberia

Also known as the Barefoot Russian. Some people also called him That Crazy Russian though I must say that he didn't seem much crazier than most Russians I've met -- and I do mean that in the nicest way.

According to court papers, Rodionov, a Russian scientist and businessman, paid a $68,000-to-$100,000 bribe to Alexander Mikhailovich Pokidyshev in 1990-91 to buy the isotopes for $24 million, well below the world market price. Pokidyshev was director of the Centre for Stable Isotopes, a government-owned facility in Novosibirsk, Siberia.

The isotopes were transferred to Horos Inc., a Soviet-Swedish venture under Rodionov's control, and eventually shipped to suburban Toronto, where Rodionov operated several companies, court papers said.

Rodionov left Russia on a business trip in May 1991 and never returned. In June 1994, Russian authorities asked Canada for help in recovering the isotopes.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided Rodionov's offices in suburban Toronto in January 1995. Although the Mounties didn't find the isotopes, they discovered paperwork indicating the isotopes had been shipped to High Technology in Southgate.

The Canadians turned to U.S. Customs, which raided the company the next month and seized most of the missing isotopes.

Much of the delay since then resulted from difficulties Canadian authorities encountered trying to extradite Rodionov from St. Kitts, where he had purchased citizenship for $145,000 and moved with his wife and child in 1994, court papers said.


He arrived there just ahead of the Canadian RCMP, from which he has been a fugitive (as well as an Interpol fugitive) there these many years. He managed to secure a decent income for himself which he has managed prudently, living much more modestly there than the money would require. When I met him his wife and son were in Canada and he had not seen them for seven years. Closer to 10 years now.

I don't quite understand -- and this article doesn't make clear -- just what the Canadian government's beef is with him. He maintains that they simply want to have the isotopes and are enraged that he managed to spirit them South out of their reach.

At one point the Canadian authorities frightened the Kittitian police into putting him in prison. He was there for about eight months and I met him really just days after he came out. He looked terrible and he was, understandably, furious and disgusted. Our first conversation was about the prison. He was, I hardly need add, the only white man in the place. He taught several of the men to play chess and he seems to have survived by his wits. A very very smart man. I do remember him sputtering with indignation and incredulity at one prison practice: in the morning they had prayers and handed out hymn books. "They gave us this book and told us to sing out of it!" The food was appalling was another thing he told me. I believe he secured better food for himself as some prisoners do if they can manage it.

Later in our acquaintance he told me that although he was trained as a physicist the job he wished he could have had was that of "Sexopotologist," a man who helps restore women to their full orgasmic capacity. He told me of some great successes he had had in Russia, turning unhappy women on to huge and multiple orgasms. I didn't know whether he was offering me his services. Anyway the stupidest woman in St. Kitts showed up one evening after I had given him another ride home. I guess that was the time he showed me the pictures of his isotopes. She was all dressed up and wearing a shawl. Later they were very much a couple. Her husband was in Canada and she had a little boy who was even creepier than she was. I'm not sure what broke it up, I imagine she was too stupid even for his loneliness.

He was lonely a lot of the time and so was I. And I listened to him, I had some curiosity which a lot of people didn't have. I am indebted to him for a Sunday afternoon I spent, nearly a year later, at his apartment where he insisted that I come and watch Russian music videos. This invitation came after I gave him a ride home from Friar's beach. He never owned a car there. He showed me photos of his isotopes and a great mountain of newspaper articles about himself from all over the world. The music videos were dated from before he arrived in St. Kitts, they were what he brought with him. He got sentimental watching them; they were one of the few comforts for the most awful homesickness that must have beset him in that little place. The first music video struck me speechless: it featured a man singing and dancing around a tiny sort of 1940s New-York-looking apartment while ironing a pair of pants. It was magnificent. Then there was a band that looked like it was entirely composed of midgets with combovers wearing pinstriped suits. Another one was set apparently in a nursing home with all these patients dancing in their pajamas, half of them crutches. Many, many of them were old-movie-gangster themed which had a certain currency and relevance, given the last 10 years of Russian history, that didn't escape me. Almost all of them had a sort of reckless energy to them that was partly at least what made them so watchable. It was a drowsy afternoon and I remember sort of beginning to fall asleep as this hour or so of these videos played. He took this opportunity to sidle up next to me on the couch and bite me on the boob. Whereupon I boxed his ears and stood up and told him I had to go.

He escorted me to the door and said, "Thank you for your cooperation."

Next time he saw me he apologized. I hadn't really been angry at him, I mean it just seemed like he couldn't help but try and really called for no more indignation than you would feel at seeing the dog sneaking onto the new couch.

"I can't believe it's finally over," a lawyer who has been involved in the dispute said Tuesday. The lawyer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the case, added: "I should be pinching myself."

The other lawyers declined to discuss the case or didn't return repeated phone calls.


Well imagine his St. Kitts lawyer (and I think I do) is not pinching himself either, he is in a waking dream -- himself as Scrooge MacDuck splashing about in that vault full of whatever his cut of 35 percent of $350 million comes to. And all those people who didn't have any time for Alex, I'm sure it's another story now.

28 Comments:

At 10:24 AM, Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

I share your question about Canada's interest. He spirits them out of Russia and Canada charges him for bribery?

The other thing is, U.S. Customs, which raided the company the next month and seized most of the missing isotopes.

most?

 
At 3:32 AM, Blogger Kia said...

I wonder about that too. A little of that stuff apparently goes a long way. I wonder if maybe that remainder is what he was living off of in St. Kitts.

 
At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Mr X's customer said...

The crazy Russian was still holed up in St Kitts in December 2005, having beaten the British Privy Council, the Americans and the Russians in various courts. At that time, he had only the Canadians left to beat ... But to my knowledge he is still flailing about like Patrick McGoohan in "The Prisoner" trying to get off Gilligan's Isle.

Incidently, he is a little less arrogant when sober -- which is a fairly rare occurance. And the reason he gives for not owning a car in St Kitts is because he would drink too much to keep it from hitting pedestrians! An arrogant Russian renegade with a social conscience? Hopefully, he won't end up swallowing his isotopes along with his Russian pride!

 
At 1:53 PM, Blogger bob said...

My wife and I just me this man in st kitts at the bar next to the shiggity shack...cant remember the name of it...he wanted to "breed" with my wife...thats when I said it was time to go...i do have a picture of him which he happily posed for

 
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At 10:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I met this Rssian mad man on the bech in St. Kitts Feb. 2011. He was a whacko nut job. He told me a crazy tale about his life and how he is wanted by a bunch of governments around the world. Once he told me he didn't believe in God that was it. I knew he was a kook.

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