Austria: Alleged Chief of Russian Murder-for-Hire Gang Arrested

The suspected leader of a Russia-based organized crime group that prosecutors say was involved with high-level contract killings has been arrested in Austria.

Emblem of the Investigative Committee of Russia

According to a Jan. 19 report by Russia's Investigative Committee, Aslan Gagiyev, 44, led the gang, which prosecutors say had more than 46 members. Officials believe that it has been involved in more than 40 contract killings in Moscow and North Ossetia, and that Gagiyev had either contracted or directly ordered all of them. After he fled Russia, Gagiyev was placed on Interpol's most wanted list. He was arrested by Austrian Police on Jan. 17.

One of the cases linked by Russian police to Gagiyev's group is the murder of the former mayor of Vladikavkaz,Vitaly Karayev, in 2008. They are also suspected of murdering the Vice Prime Minister of North Ossetia, Kazbek Pagiyev, and his driver the same year. In 2013, the group allegedly killed the deputy prosecutor for the Promyshlenny district of Vladikavkaz, Oleg Oziyev.

Gagiyev's group is also thought to have been responsible for a number of botched murders, including that of customs crime investigator Alexander Leonov, and the head of a crime detection department in North Ossetia,Vitaly Cheldiyev, as well as his son.

Some of the group are now deceased; several are serving long jail sentences; 15 are detained and being investigated;and 13 are on international and federal wanted lists. One of the gang's unit leaders, Bakhrom Sekinayev, confessed in 2014 to murder, attempted murder, illegal circulation of firearms, deliberate destruction or damage of property, organization of a criminal community, banditry, forgery of a car number plate and illegal drug trafficking.

Gagiyev is awaiting extradition to Russia, where he will be further investigated and tried.