MOSCOW - A Russian businessman who had been convicted in Israel of being a KGB spy was shot to death in Moscow yesterday, police said.
Shabattai Kalmanovich, 60, was killed near his apartment in central Moscow by unidentified gunmen who shot at his Mercedes from a passing car, firing at least 20 bullets, police said.
His driver was wounded, but tried to pursue the car for several blocks, police said.
The killing appeared to have been carefully planned, and investigators are looking for at least two assassins, the head of the Moscow Investigative Committee Anatoly Bagmet said in televised remarks. He said the slaying might be related to Kalmanovich’s business affairs or driven by “personal revenge.’’
Born in Soviet Lithuania in 1949, Kalmanovich immigrated to Israel in 1971. He reportedly agreed to spy for the KGB in return for a permit allowing him to leave Lithuania.
In Israel, Kalmanovich eventually became a government adviser on the resettlement of Soviet Jews. He also worked as Israel’s representative in Sierra Leone.
An Israeli court convicted Kalmanovich in 1988 of espionage and sentenced him to seven years in jail. He was released after five years and relocated to Sierra Leone, where he made a fortune in the diamonds trade.
Since 1994, Kalmanovich worked in Moscow as director general of the large Tishinsky shopping center. He also sponsored three basketball clubs, and was named chief executive of the Russian women’s basketball team in 2008.
He was known as a concert promoter who brought popular musicians to Russia.
The shooting is reminiscent of the contract killings of businessmen that were common in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.