Russian Is Ordered Extradited

Times Staff Writer

Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov, the alleged Russian mobster accused by U.S. prosecutors of plotting to fix the ice dancing and pairs figure skating competition at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, Tuesday was ordered extradited to the United States.

Tokhtakhunov, arrested in July near his home in northern Italy, has since been in jail near Venice.

His lawyer, Luca Saldarelli, who has previously declared Tokhtakhunov not guilty, indicated that an appeal of the extradition order was likely.

In a criminal complaint unsealed July 31, U.S. prosecutors in Manhattan accused Tokhtakhunov of using his influence with members of the French and Russian figure skating federations to fix the outcome of the pairs and dancing competition in Salt Lake City.

The allegations widened the scandal over judging during the Games beyond the pairs event, in which gold medals were awarded to Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze and then, later, to Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier as well.

Court documents say Tokhtakhunov is 62. The complaint alleges he is a "major figure in international Eurasian organized crime," and accuses him of plotting to persuade a French judge to vote for the Russian pairs team, and a Russian judge to vote for the French ice dancing team.

The French dance team, Gwendal Peizerat and Marina Anissina, won the gold medal.

Anissina, born in the former Soviet Union, has acknowledged knowing Tokhtakhunov but described the charges against him as a "ridiculous affair."

The complaint says that Tokhtakhunov, who had previously lived in France, wanted to curry favor with French authorities to gain an extension of his French visa.

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