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World March 28, 2008
Yair Klein: Russia's "Other" Viktor Bout
Weapons, Cocaine, Israelis And Oligarchs By Yasha Levine Browse author Email
Page 4 of 4

Eskin was still serving time in Israel for his wiretapping crime when he was recruited to help Klein. It's not clear how Eskin got out of jail for a crime that serious. If Tzivin is right, Klein still has some powerful people on his side. Eskin was the go-to man, as he’s known for his ties to Russia's political and business elite. So Tzivin brought Eskin to Russia to help him work their Russian contacts on behalf of Klein.

Turns out, Eskin wasn’t much help. A few weeks after he arrived in Moscow, on December 31, the Russian General Prosecutor's office announced that Klein would be extradited to colombia, no matter what trump cards Tzivin thought he had up his sleeve.

* * *

At the hearing on March 12, the judge rejected Klein’s appeal. Klein had wanted his lawyers to argue that his extradition was a CIA conspiracy, but his counsel refused and stuck to arguments more easily proved: 1) that colombia’s statute of limitation on Klein's crimes had expired; and 2) that colombia couldn't guarantee his safety once he was extradited back. To prove the second point, his lawyers cited a UN report that accused colombia of serious human rights violations. The Russian prosecutor had a field day with that.

"Well, the UN has criticized Israel for human rights abuses in the same breath as they criticized Serbia and Chechnya. You cannot take that seriously," he said with a smirk.

As the judges retired to their chambers to decide the case, Klein jumped up and started ranting about the CIA to his attorneys. I caught only snatches of his outburst: "Rockets … missiles bought to arm Taliban fighters in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets ... The CIA ... Americans ... The judge needs to know." But his lawyer cut him off.

As the judge read off the court's decision in Russian, Klein remained in suspense. The young interpreter he hired failed to keep up with the judge’s pace and gave up trying to translate. Klein learned of his fate from his lawyer only some time later, after the court session had been adjourned.

"That was bullshit!" Klein’s Russian lawyer cried. "There was no way the judges could have typed up that statement in an hour. It had already been prepared."

Klein has one more chance to appeal the decision with Russia's Supreme Court. His attorneys have already filed the request. But Tzivin may have already tapped all of his connections and played his trump cards. The bottom line is, this strange and incredibly story looks like it’s coming to a bad and quiet end for Yair Klein. As he struggles alone, forgotten and shunned by his home country and the various spy agencies who once used his services, one can only hope that his epitaph isn’t summed up with the cheap ol’ "crime doesn’t pay" homily.

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Yasha Levine is an editor at The eXile. You can contact him at
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