US-Blacklisted Russian Singer Admits Knowing Mafia Suspect

MOSCOW, November 15 (RIA Novosti) – A popular Russian crooner blacklisted by the United States last month for alleged ties to organized crime confirmed Friday that he was acquainted with a person identified as a key member of an international underworld syndicate.

The US Treasury said on October 31 that it had blacklisted singer Grigory Lepsveridze – known better by the stage name of Grigory Leps – on suspicion of couriering money for Vladislav Leontyev, who was blacklisted last year for being “a key member of the Brothers’ Circle” and for involvement “in various criminal activities, including narcotics trafficking.”

The Brothers’ Circle is one of five transnational criminal organizations outlawed in the United States. The US Treasury describes the Brothers’ Circle as comprising leading figures from Eurasian criminal groups that are chiefly based in the countries of the former Soviet Union but that operate globally.

“I’ve known [Leontyev] for 30 years. I don’t even remember how we became acquainted. He is an ordinary normal man, as far as I know,” Leps told reporters. He noted that neither Russia nor European countries suspect Leontyev of illegal activities.

Leps is an multiple award-winning Russian singer with an income this year estimated by Forbes magazine at $15 million.

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