Australian Couple Kidnapped in Russia Freed After Eight Days
FBI agents worked with Russian and Australian authorities to free a couple kidnapped in Moscow in a plot to extort $ 1.6 million from their relatives in New Jersey, the FBI said.
The Australian businessman and his wife were held for eight days. She was freed when Russian police raided a country dacha and he was found in a Moscow hotel room, the FBI said Friday. Ten people were arrested, the agency said.
Dimitry O. Afanasiev, 23, a Russian lawyer living in Philadelphia, was a go-between for Russian and U.S. authorities. Authorities wouldn't identify the couple, but Afanasiev said they are Daniel and Ivonny Weinstock. Authorities found them by monitoring phone calls made to relatives, the FBI said. Afanasiev, whose firm has extensive Russian connections, said he established communication links between the FBI and the Russian Agency for Federal Security, formerly a branch of the Soviet KGB.
The Melbourne couple were abducted Jan. 9 in an apparent dispute over money lost in a business deal. The kidnappers told the man to phone his brother-in-law, Israel Rayman of Wayne, N.J., with their ransom demand of $ 1.6 million, the FBI said. The brother-in-law contacted Jerome Shestack, a lawyer with Moscow connections who works at a Philadelphia law firm. Shestack enlisted the help of Afanasiev, a former Russian assistant district attorney now with the firm.
"It's such a crazy mess over there," Afanasiev said. "You don't know who to call. You're not sure who is corrupt, who isn't." The kidnappers, apparently feeling safe half a world away, gave the brother-in-law phone numbers where they could be reached.
"I don't think they felt any problem because they could not possibly foresee a provincial town in New Jersey getting in contact with Russian law enforcement in 10 or 15 minutes," Afanasiev said.
On Wednesday, Russian police raided the dacha 30 miles outside Moscow, freeing the woman and arresting five people, the FBI said. Early Thursday, Russian authorities stormed the Moscow hotel room and released the businessman, arresting another five people, the FBI said.
The Australian embassy in Moscow reported that the couple were "well and happy."