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Last Updated: Monday, 18 July, 2005, 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK
Russian gangland boss acquitted
Vyacheslav Ivankov
"Yaponchik" served long jail terms in Russia and the US
A Moscow court has acquitted a notorious Russian criminal boss who was charged with the 1992 murder of two Turkish nationals.

Vyacheslav Ivankov, known as "Yaponchik" (Little Japanese), was released immediately after the ruling.

He was accused of shooting three Turks in a Moscow restaurant. Two died on the spot; the third was seriously wounded.

He served nearly 10 years in a US jail for extortion and a fake marriage, and was extradited to Russia last year.

All five witnesses questioned in court said "I've never seen him in my life," Itar-Tass news agency reported.

Ivankov's lawyer Sergei Kotelevsky said the prosecution witnesses included a waiter, a police officer and a cloakroom attendant from the restaurant.

Before 1991, Ivankov, who is now 65, had spent 10 years in Soviet jails for running criminal gangs.

He was convicted in the US in 1996 for the extortion of $3.5m (1.9m) from fellow emigres.

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