LAW
Georgian Mafia Wages Bloody Vegetable War in Moscow
25 September, 2014
Georgian Mafia Wages Bloody Vegetable War in Moscow
“Bloody ‘Vegetable Wars’ have continued in Moscow for years. The mafia is trying to get control of vegetable markets where, according to the ‘Godfathers,’ it is possible to make big money and also to dictate your rules to the whole of Moscow because whoever controls the markets controls the authorities.”
Der Spiegel, October 2013.


Last week Georgian citizens were once again at the center of the attention of foreign media. First, it was in Spain where during another special operation a 49-men-strong organized group of robbers was detained. The majority of the group turned out to be Georgians. For two days the Spanish media was speaking about the dexterity and orderliness of the Georgian mafia… According to sources from the law enforcement, the Georgian underworld rented nearly 60 houses for them. The robbers themselves robbed flats, stole cars and sold the stolen items mostly abroad. The Spaniards hope that with the help of those detained, the law enforcement will manage to trace them to “bigger fish”…
Recently, on September 9th another Georgian businessman became a victim of the new wave of “Vegetable War” in Moscow. At 11:30 p.m. in the yard of his private house (where he lived together with his wife and two children) Robert Tsomaia, owner of Fruit Paradise, was killed. The killer fired as Tsomaia was getting out of his car with two bags in his hands headed toward the entrance. A video camera was able to record the assassination but the videotape was of such low quality that it was almost impossible to identify the killer… Two bullets hit Tsomaia in the thigh and chest. The businessman died before the ambulance arrived.
A passer-by called the authorities. At the crime scene, law enforcement officers found a construction worker’s vest that presumably was left by the killer. It is evident that Tsomaia was a victim of an ordered assassination that can be connected with the redistribution of spheres of influence in the market Fruit Paradise.
For the last 25 years there has been a constant struggle between the authorities, law-enforcement and the criminal world to gain influence of the fruit and vegetable market in Moscow. Out of 175 markets, the majority are controlled by the criminal world. The fight for leadership between the Georgian and Azeri mafia has gone on for 14 years. The vegetable conflict has resulted in bloody confrontations between the thieves and clans of various influential mafia
figures. Unsurprisingly, Georgians play a prominent role in these events.
In 2001 in the Pokrovski Greens market of Moscow, the so-called “black greens-sellers” appeared – this is what they called the kingpins (including “Vor v Zakone” Tariel Potskhveria) who decided to make money by getting hold of the greens’ business. By that time the Pokrovski greens market, with an annual turnover of 9 billion dollars, was a coveted target not only for the underworld but also for Chechen leaders (such as Shamil Basaev) and for high-ranking of Moscow militias, all fighting for control of it. Until 2012 Azeri criminals controlled the greens market; then the Kutaisi wing of the underworld (Tariel Oniani) set his eye on the market and Merab Jangveladze aka ‘Sukhumski’ took over. Soon the market was closed and Jangveladze was detained in Europe. The market was then moved to a new location and the battle between the ‘black greens-sellers’ renewed. In 2013 alone, due to this confrontation, there were 20 ordered assassinations, and 100 men fell victim to raids and bloody confrontations.
Since 2014 several criminal groups were working simultaneously in the fruit and vegetable markets of Moscow. Together with Chechen and Tajik groups, the Gardabani (region in Georgia) criminal group has been singled out for its increasing influence (it’s interesting that quite for some time it wasn’t even considered to be Georgian). Its business is stealing cars from the market territory and selling them. Georgian crime syndicates have an interest in about 70 fruit and vegetable markets in Moscow. Operation “Tangerines” carried out by the Georgian mafia is a topic of hearsay even today and not only in the criminal world. A few years ago Georgian criminals brought tangerines from Adjaria, Georgia instead of the standard Moroccan ones to the Moscow fruit market. In the storage facilities near Moscow about 200 men worked vigorously sticking Moroccan stickers on each Georgian tangerine. From this operation Georgian criminals made a huge profit. They sold the tangerines—bought dirt-cheap in Ajara - at 20-times the price. Soon the Georgian criminals were confronted by their Armenian counterparts who provided protection forr the Moroccan tangerines trade. Now in the criminal underworld a war was waged over tangerines. The Slavic criminal authorities became suspicious of their Georgian “colleagues” because of their past business endeavors (in greens, tangerine …). The senior, elderly criminals organized a meeting to remind the younger ones about their status. The “vegetable wars” were forgotten for some time. Yet now it seems that the fragile truce in the battle for the vegetable markets was broken by the assassination of Robert Tsomaia…
On August 18th, 2008, at 5.30 p.m. on a Moscow highway Davit Dualidze’s (the General Director of “Transservice” Company) car was overtaken by an unknown vehicle and its passengers opened fire. Dualidze’s car lost control and it crashed into a trailer loaded with fruit… The vehicle erupted up in flames along with its driver…
On November 17th of the same year, at around 11.15 a.m., two strangers shot businessman Giordi Tsertsvadze in the street with a tommy gun. On November 23rd a Georgian again became the main target of one of the most significant assassinations in Moscow: This time the killers’ target was an armored car driven by its owner, businessman Oleg Akhlokhashvili. The killers fired at the Jeep until the glass was shattered and the driver was killed.
On February 5th, 2009, passersby witnessed yet another incident in Moscow. A man calmly walking his dog in front of his house was approached by another man who shot him in the back of the head. The law-enforcement officers couldn’t reach the dead man because his dog wouldn’t let anyone come near his body. They were forced to neutralize the dog. The victim of the hit was Kakha Kalandarishvili, a Georgian businessman who had a petrol business in Russia.
On August 7th, 2012, the corpse of a Russian citizen was found in Minsk but his name wasn’t made public. According to media, the assassination could be connected with a deadly shootout in which criminal syndicates from several countries took part. At the time they hinted that it could be related to a Georgian criminal organization but the name was stubbornly hidden. The next week the Georgian media reported that 67-year-old businessman and former deputy Bondo Shalikiani (who held a Belorussian passport with the name of Bondo Pavlov) was killed in Minsk. Citizens of Georgia will remember that Shalikiani was detained on March 5th, 2004. Soon after his detention, Rose Revolution authorities forced Shalikiani to cede the Sairme resort and to handover his shares of Kutaisi car and tractor plants. There was more: Shalikiani was also fined 180,000 GEL.
Shalikiani’s murder still isn’t solved but for some time Belorussian law-enforcement officers were looking for a connection to Georgia. According to one version, all these assassinations are connected with the renewed wave of the notorious Moscow “Vegetable Wars.” Only time will tell if Robert Tsomaia, owner of the Fruit Paradise market, will be the final Georgian victim of these new bloody battles over control of Moscow’s valuable vegetable and fruit markets.

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