DEATH WISH 1996
PAUL TATUM’S LAST LETTER TO THE RUSSIAN PROSECUTOR
Every foreigner in Moscow knows the Paul Tatum story. In the expat religion, the assassination of the former Radisson-Slavyanskaya honcho makes up a whole book—say, the Job-like fourth or fifth after the 1991 Genesis—of the local Bible. According to the book, Tatum was swallowed whole by a great local mobster, and again vomited back up upon the land, only with eleven bulletholes in him.
Like any legend, the Tatum story has many popular interpretations.
Tatum’s proponents, like his moronic self-publishing brother-in-law Rick Furmanek, insist that ol’ Paul was just a good guy businessman, worshiped by his employees, who was viciously blindsided by a gangland takeover. Those same proponents tend to see in the Tatum story a metaphor for the unhappy clash of ethical Western business with the ruthless criminal “biznes” of Russia.
Tatum’s detractors, who among Westerners willing to go on the record are significantly fewer in number than Tatum’s proponents, maintain that Tatum was at best a fool who refused to read the writing on the wall, and at worst a corrupt shyster no better or worse than the people who had him killed.
The two schools have argued periodically and to little result in the nearly four years since Tatum’s death. In that time there has been little new evidence to shed light on the matter. Until now, that is.
This month, Stringer obtained two documents which prove conclusively that Tatum knew for a fact that he was in serious danger before his death—and that his shooting came as a direct result of his decision to throw caution to the wind and take his chances despite the dangers.
Not that anyone deserves to get shot. But no one deserves to be canonized for throwing out a plank and walking oneself off of it. Paul Tatum could have gone home to a cozy life of chat rooms and 24-packs. But instead... instead, these are the fact of the case:
PAUL TATUM WAS SHOT in cold blood with an automatic “Kalashnikov” before the very eyes of several passers-by in the center of Moscow.
On November 3rd, 1996, around 5:00 pm, Tatum, accompanied by two bodyguards, left the Slavyanskaya hotel and headed towards the Kievskaya metro station, where he had arranged to meet someone. His killer, having walked up to him in the underground passageway, shot him at point-blank range. Having carried out his orders, the killer laid his gun down on the passageway steps and walked away.
Eleven bullets, fired from a distance of five meters, ended his long dispute with the Moscow City Government with the “Radisson-Slavyanskaya” Hotel.
It was a big deal, initially. But the Russian press forgot about Tatum’s murder within the span of two days. His relatives have been unable to get his remains back to the US—he was buried in the Kuntsevsky Cemetery in Moscow— and it seems to have been a while since anyone remembered him.
One might get the impression that someone put a gag in the the mouth of the Muscovite press. This “someone,” the theory goes, was working inside Mayor Yuri Luzhkov’s circle. In any case, that’s the conclusion that can be made from Paul Tatum’s statement to General Prosecutor Yuri Skuratov, which was written nearly seven months before his death, and which we reprint in public for the first time now. The letter refers to several figures only by nicknames and pseudonyms; who they are becomes clear later:
To the General Prosecutor of The Russian Federation
Yuri M. Skuratov
From: US Citizen Paul Edward Tatum
Moscow, Berezhkovskaya Nabarezhna dom 2, komnata 852
In 1990, the company “RedAmer Partnership,” headed by myself, became a partner with the Joint-Venture “Intourist - Radamer Hotel and Business Center. The hotel “Slavyankskaya” later also joined this partnership. Goskom Intourist, and subsequently the Moscow City Government, took part on the Russian side. Eighty percent of the fifty percent of the stock belonging to the American partners belonged to my company.
At that time, the General Director of the JV was an American citizen, and the enterprise functioned normally. In January 1995, some problems arose with the American partners, connected with the fact that the General Director had not received his Russian visa. U.A. Dzhabrailov was named as the acting General Director, since he had connections in the Moscow City Government and was able to initiate his naming to the post. Despite repeated statements to various levels of the government about the law violations on part of our Russian partners, no actions have been taken. The American partners, as a result, have suffered a huge loss.
By the end of February 1996, my acquaintance, Sasha, introduced me to Givi (956-75-28) who mentioned in passing that he knew [Iosif] Ordzhonikidze well, and promised to provide cooperation in solving the problems that had turned up with the “Radisson-Slavyanskaya” Hotel. In March, an urgent meeting was held with Givi, during which he informed me of the conditions under which our firm would receive the possibility to name our General Director and basically solve all of our problems with the hotel. According to Givi, who is representing Ordzhonikidze, the Moscow City Government promises to provide a letter which will apply to the mayor for the selection of the General Director of the joint company who will represent the American partners.
According to Givi, I am supposed to pay one million dollars towards the development of a “Diplomatic Club,” run by Givi. Supposedly, according to Givi’s figures, subsequently and basically on the terms of a trusteeship, the Moscow City Government will be directing the club. Under these terms, they will support various directors of the Judicial System, including three of Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov’s men. Givi explained that the one million dollars transferred to the club would be given over to Ordzhonikidze. Out of that sum, 500 thousand dollars would remain at his disposal, and the other 500 thousand would be given to Dzhabrailov, who allegedly, according to Givi, has previously handed out money to the Moscow City Government. He explained that this amount would go towards the paying off of his expenses — basically, compensation by the Moscow City Government to Dzhabrailov for the latter’s payoff.
By my calculations, this is the only avenue open to me which would allow my company to regain its rightful legal position. Givi further explained that his personal interests consisted principally of the opportunity to earn money by running this “Diplomatic Club.”
Taking these facts into consideration, I ask you to take the necessary measures which would, on one side, prevent me from having to deal with extortion and on the other side, help us to restore our legal rights at the order of CP “Intourist - Radamer Hotel and Business Center.”
Right now, without handing out bribes, our problem will remain unsolved.
April 15, 1995
IF WE ARE TO BELIEVE the author, then it seems like a certain chairman of the Moscow City Government, Iosif Ordzhonikidze, asked Tatum for a bribe of one million dollars in order to cover up a previous bribe of 500 thousand dollars which Umar Dzhabrailov paid previously. Tatum apparently refused to pay, and instead turned to The Law for help. How it all ended is clear. Umar Dzhabrailov settled himself down permanently in the General Director’s chair, while Paul Tatum wound up in the Kuntsevsky Cemetery. The connection between these two events, in our opinion, is more than clear.
LET’S TAKE A MINUTE to review how the energetic young Paul Tatum got his business started in Russia.
In 1987, after arriving from California, the businessman opened up his first business center for foreign firms and companies in Moscow. Later, he founded the company “Americom International Corporation,” whose partner is Bob Haldeman, the former head of the Nixon Administration.
In 1989, “Americom” joined up with the managerial company “Radisson Hotel Corporation” and signed a contract with Goskom Intourist that agreed to construct an American hotel combined with an enterprise that would go by the name of “Intourist - Radamer Hotel and Business Center.” Fifty percent of the joint-venture stock belonged to the American partners, and the other half was Goskom Intourist’s. But even so, the hotel was on federal property. The joint venture acted merely as a tenant of the building.
In August 1991, coincidentally the eve of the coup, the Radisson-Slavyanskaya Hotel received its first guests. It was during these very days that Tatum acquired his connections in political circles. It’s even rumored that during the coup, Tatum was in the besieged White House, where certain acquaintances actively used his mobile phone.
A year later, problems arose back in the States for the businessman. Several stockholders of “Amerikom” were suing him, saying that he had embezzled the firm’s funds. As he had received credit from various investors in the US, there was no way Tatum could settle his accounts.
In 1992, Goskom Intourist was liquidated, and “Slavyanskaya” became city government property. Within two years’ time, squabbles broke out between the two American partners regarding the privatization of the joint venture’s share, which had earlier belonged to the disbanded government organization.
Tatum suggested giving out a part of the shares to the hotel workers and selling the other part, so as to cover up any credit that had been received earlier. The directors of “Radisson” demanded that Tatum review the joint venture’s share. They accused Tatum of destroying the accounting records, taking a chunk of the income for himself, and deceiving his partners even as the “Slavyanskaya” was becoming a five-star hotel.
While the Americans argued, the Russians—more specifically, the authorities at Moskomimushestvo— got possession of shares of the former Goskom Intourist. Umar Dzhabrailov was named the acting director of the hotel, and Tatum gained yet another enemy.
At the same time, the city property authorities at Moskomimushestvo decided to sell “Slavyanskaya”, and put an end to all of the fuss with the co-owner. But the problems did not end there. The Moscow City Government turned out to have a too big of an appetite. The potential buyers were faced with nearly impossible conditions by the bureaucrats.
They were told that not only would they have to lay out more than fifty million dollars for the hotel itself, but that they would also be required to pay 100 million dollars to the city to supposedly settle the joint venture’s debts, wipe the neighboring DK Gorbunov building off the face of the earth, and finally, hand over 100 thousand dollars towards the development of a children’s recreation center in Moscow. We should mention that so far, no one willing to take up these conditions has been found.
After having driven Tatum from “Slavyanskaya,” Dzhabrailov demanded 300 thousand dollars from him for the hotels’ residents and the office rent. Tatum did not give him the money. Later, he had a nagging feeling that Dzhabrailov wanted to kill him, but he said nothing of this to the media.
THE “TATUM AFFAIR” was buried for four long years. It flared back up again on the very peak of the pre-election campaign, just when Luzhkov’s team announced a war against Yeltsin’s “Family.”
ORT Nazi Sergei Dorenko carried Tatum’s name like a war banner under which the people should go to battle against the “Moscow Family.” Behind him trudged the half-retarded relatives of the late entrepreneur, trying to take advantage of the moment and get the trophy after the victory. According to our sources, Dorenko’s team explained to the members of Tatum’s family that they could easily, with help from the courts, get 36 million dollars from Luzhkov, or at least confiscate the lush New York apartment allegedly owned by the Moscow mayor.
After the elections, when it became clear that Luzhkov was backing off with his “Otechestvo,” Tatum was forgotten once more.
The scandal about Tatum’s relatives blaming Luzhkov for taking part in the murder quieted down just as quickly. The Arizona courts, where a lawsuit had been filed against the mayor of Russia’s capital, didn’t carry out even one session regarding the issue.
It seems as though everything is rather clear. The “Tatum Affair” was used to reach certain political ends and promptly forgotten about. But actually, this is where the really interesting stuff begins. The main questions are: Where did Sergei Dorienko get his information about Tatum— and who put it into the commentator’s head to suggest suing Luzhkov in the American courts?
LET’S GO BACK to the letter Tatum sent to the Yuri Skuratov. Contrary to the usual practice, this letter did not go unnoticed. The paper turned up in the office of the Presidential Bodyguard, which was conducting the investigation in the affair.
The following is a report taken from the files of Alexander Korzhakov’s office. In it, an investigator summarizes the Tatum case:
On May 28th of the current year, a planned meeting with the director of the Radisson-Slavyanskaya Hotel, US citizen Paul Tatum, took place. The latter informed us that he had had a series of meetings with a well-known citizen by the name of Givi, who, in his own words, is the middleman dealing with Ordzhinokidze's finances.
Givi persistently asked to speed up the payment, since Tatum thus far had not found a solution to the aforementioned problems. For his part, Tatum chose to investigate Givi’s reliability through an acquaintance of his, a former worker in the Russian Embassy in America. The latter actually, according to his words, met with the personal representative of “O”, who reaffirmed Givi’s power. “O’”s trusted friend, in turn, requested five thousand dollars in cash from Tatum in order to get him a letter, signed by Luzhkov, where the details of the hotel’s transfer to Tatum would be outlined.
Tatum explained further about the aforementioned issue regarding the payment to Givi, in the near future, of one million dollars. It followed from their conversation that the deal could take place in two stages. At first, Tatum could pay 500 thousand dollars, not in cash, after which Tatum would receive documents affirming the serious interests of the Moscow City Government regarding Tatum. After that payment, according to Givi, “O” would receive a commission, from which the decision would be made about the General Director of P.T.’s hotel. Afterwards, Tatum would get to pay the other 500 thousand dollars.
According to P.T., Givi gave him the idea that now “O” is being very careful, and that if he did not receive the money, the problems would remain unsolved.
Tatum was actually intending to demand this payment of the indicated sum, since he had been forced to trick Givi for a long period of time and had lied in order to postpone the payment. Later, when P.T. would receive the documents, the second stage of the hotel’s transfer would be put into action for the usage of the American partners. P.T. intended to buy out the hotel and give the Moscow City Government 74 million US dollars.
Basically, P.T. would pay the indicated sum, but 10 million dollars would be given over as bribes. P.T. explained that if the first half of the agreement was to be carried out and the other side was to reassure itself that the Justice System remained unaware of the situation, and then afterwards “O” would get in touch with his contact right away and solve P.T.’s problems.
It follows from the information received that at the present, those who are interested in receiving money from P.T. have had a wait-and-see kind of attitude since the last concrete steps have been taken.
According to P.T., some outsiders are involved in the matter, for example the astronaut Volkov, who is diligently searching for contacts with P.T. It follows from the analysis of the information received that S. Borulnik is displaying his “independence” and, most likely, unbeknownst to his boss, is attempting to get financial compensation from P.T. in the amount of five thousand US dollars.
Now remember the chronological events of the elections. At the very peak of the war between Luzhkov and Yeltsin’s circle, the former head of the president’s bodyguard, Korzhakov, made an unexpected statement about how during his service, Boris Berezovsky tried to talk him into killing not only Vladimir Gusinsky, but also Luzhkov and Iosif Kobzon.
The statement made a lot of noise in the press. Furthermore, Korzhakov gave Moscow’s mayor an additional trump card in his pre-election battle. He even commented that Berezovsky and Korzhakov were basically one and the same. After that, information about Tatum somehow turned up in Dorenko’s hands.
From here, two conclusions can be made. First of all, Berezovsky should express his deep gratitude to Korzhakov for his victory over Moscow’s mayor. Secondly, Luzhkov needs to think again about treating people the way he treated Korzhakov in this instance.
It’s clear from Tatum’s statement to Skuratov and from the latest investigation information that the people in Luzhkov’s closest circle live by their own rules and their own logic. Under the fulfillment of certain circumstances (the payment of one million dollars) they were ready to hand over Tatum’s own hotel to Tatum and drive out Dzhabrailov.
But Tatum decided to play things differently. He took the case to the authorities, and even to the intelligence services. He even approached Alexander Lebed, who by then had assumed the head of the Security Council. In short, he made such a fuss that he became genuinely dangerous to his enemies, thereby hastening the fateful denouement.
article was originally published in the Russian publication “Stringer”,
with whom the eXile has an editorial agreement.]