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Shabtai Kalmanovich, a former Israeli double agent who penetrated Golda Meir's government on behalf of the KGB, has been shot dead in Moscow.Kalmanovich, who later became a prominent businessman and allegedly had links with the Russian mafia, died after an unidentified gunman fired at least 20 shots into his chauffeur-driven Mercedes Benz. Mr Kalmanovich's driver was seriously wounded in the incident.
"Kalmanovich had practically no chance of surviving," a police official was quoted as saying by Russia's Interfax news agency. "He died on the spot from numerous gun wounds." A figure with a colourful if chequered past, Kalmanovich and his Jewish family immigrated to Israel from Lithuania in 1971.
After becoming an Israeli citizen, he joined the Israeli Labour Party, was appointed to a position in the government press office and became a mole for the KGB.
He later moved to the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, as an aide, and successfully forged close relations with several leading government figures, including the former prime minister Golda Meir.
According to the CIA, Kalmanovich was responsible for passing on to Moscow sensitive American intelligence that Israel had acquired from Jonathan Pollard, an American national now serving life in prison for spying for Israel.
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Kalmanovich fled to Africa in the 1980s, becoming the proprietor of the only bus operating in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone – while continuing to spy for the KGB.
He was later extradited to Israel, where he served five years in prison before being handed back to the Russians in 1993 as part of an intelligence deal.
In Russia, Kalmanovich reinvented himself as an entrepreneur and man-about-town.
Quickly making a multi-million pound fortune, he brought Michael Jackson and Liza Minelli to Moscow to stage massively popular concerts.
He also became a patron of women's basketball and took over Spartak Moscow, one of the game's most successful teams. Spartak's female players were housed in a lavish lakeside villa outside Moscow that seemed more Playboy Mansion than training camp.
There were other controversies too, not least when his wife was allegedly involved in a relationship with one of Russia's most famous female pop stars.
"Even if they live together there is nothing terrible about it," he was quoted as saying. "Personally, I like to look at two beautiful women."
Russian police said there could be a link between the murder and Kalmanovich's ownership of the Spartak basketball club – which could suggest that the killing was mafia related.
Although Russia became synonymous with mafia-linked violence in the 1990s, the bloodshed dropped off significantly by the end of the decade.
Even so, contract killings have been reported on an increasingly frequent basis in recent years. There have been warnings of a fresh bout of mob warfare after Vyacheslav Ivankov, a Russian crime boss better known as Yaponchik, was shot and fatally wounded in July.
According to Russian media outlets, Kalmanovich was friendly with Yaponchik.
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