18 January 1992
Latest news on international kidnapping case by "The Houston Chronicle"

The Huston Chronicle

WASHINGTON -- As if elements of the novel Gorky Park had sprung to life, the FBI and Russian security police teamed up this week to crack a $ 1.6 million kidnapping scheme that threatened the lives of two foreigners in Moscow.

The kidnapping ended Thursday morning, Moscow time, when agents of the newly formed Russian Agency for Federal Security, one of the successors of the KGB, swooped down on a hotel on a busy highway outside Moscow and freed Daniel Weinstock, an Australian computer-company executive who had been taken hostage Jan. 8 Weinstock's wife, Ivonne, had been freed by police the day before at a country house outside the Russian capital.

 The couple was released, and 10 Russians arrested and charged with extortion. The kidnappers had telephoned U.S. relatives of the Weinstocks, demanding money in exchange for their freedom.

The relatives, in Philadelphia and Newark, N.J., worked with the FBI, Australian diplomats and a Philadelphia law firm with extensive Russian connections to track down the Weinstocks and their captors.

The Russians charged in the case are said to have been disgruntled partners in a Siberian electronics venture with Weinstock, whose primary Russian venture is a firm named Sovaustral Technika J.V It is not known whether the kidnappers claimed they acted to recover a debt or losses from the Siberian venture, or whether they were acting out of revenge or some other motive.

The FBI was said to have entered the case only reluctantly -- and with but a single agent who worked from the bureau's Newark field office.

But participants in the inquiry said the agent applied proven U.S. tactics to a crime that is relatively rare in Russia, stringing the kidnappers along, stalling for time and even tricking them at one point into leaving their Moscow telephone number with a fake U.S. ""answering service. '' In a written statement Friday, the FBI credited the Russian Agency for Federal Security with ""unprecedented cooperation'' in the case. The agency was created by Russian President Boris Yeltsin from remnants of the former KGB, the once-feared Soviet espionage and internal-security agency.

The bureau also gave credit to a young Russian lawyer, Dimitri Afanasiev, who became enmeshed in the case while working at the Philadelphia law firm of Wolf, Block, Schorr & Solis-Cohen.

Afanasiev used his language skills and Russian political contacts to speed negotiations with the hostage-takers and to keep Russian police on their trail.