Crime lord Aslan, 75, gunned down in Moscow

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A RUSSIAN crime boss was shot dead by a sniper in Moscow yesterday, apparently the victim of a gang war over construction contracts, including those for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, ­police said.

Aslan Usoyan, 75, died after a gunman fired seven shots at him from a sniper rifle near a city restaurant.

It was the third attempt on his life since the late 1990s.

Usoyan, known as Granpa Khasan, was a Kurd born in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Police said for the past two decades he has headed one of the region’s most powerful gangs, which trafficked drugs and weapons and controlled underground casinos as well as legal businesses, including construction firms.

Police said Usoyan was hit in the jaw. He was taken to hospital but never regained consciousness. The gunman, who used an automatic rifle of a type issued to Russian special forces, also injured a passer-by.

Usoyan was first convicted in 1956 in Georgia and became a professional criminal, one of a caste who sport elaborate tattoos and follow unwritten laws formed by inmates of Stalin’s gulags. Caste members shun flash lifestyles and never marry, considering prison their only home.

They enjoyed a heyday in the Nineties after the fall of the Soviet Union. Usoyan opened a chain of casinos in Moscow and became the keeper of an emergency fund for jailed Russian criminals – a position that gave him immense authority in the Russian underworld.

By the early 2000s, he had consolidated control over gangs in southern Russia that united Georgians, Armenians and Azerbaijanis as well as ethnic Russians. He feuded with rivals who became more like the Italian mafia and often ignored Soviet-era prison etiquette.

Since 2006, Usoyan had been at war with a gang headed by another Georgian, Tariel Oniani. Russian media said the battle had intensified in recent years as they vied for control of construction projects in southern Russia, including the sports facilities for the Sochi games in 2014.