Blogged By: La Tray
Source & Story Credit: Daily Mail Reporter – Will Stewart
Photo Credit: Daily Mail
Posted: Monday May 28, 2012 @ 7:34 p.m. PST
- Mikhail Kravchenko’s neighbour believes he may have been intended target
- Vakha Evloev drives identical Mercedes and survived previous assassination
- He is also Moscow representative for volatile region with terrorist problem
- Kravchenko, 46, has also lived through two botched attempts on his life
- His furniture business had been raided by police and set alight four times
- Friend: ‘He knew he was in danger, but didn’t want to live in security bubble’
The murder of Princess Michael’s Russian ‘toyboy’ could have been a case of mistaken identity, according to the politician who believes he was the intended victim.
A senior official and neighbour, who drives an identical Mercedes car and was previously targeted by an assassination squad, has been told by police they are probing whether the killers got the wrong man.
Furniture tycoon Mikhail Kravchenko, 46, who accompanied the princess on a four-day break in Venice in 2006, was buried last week after he was gunned down just 50 yards from his home in an elite village near Moscow.
His neighbour, Vakha Evloev, 51, is the Moscow representative for Ingushetia, a volatile republic in the Caucasus region of southern Russia with a significant terrorist problem.
He said: ‘There is a suspicion that I was the true target, not Kravchenko, and they just mixed us up. We both drove dark blue Mercedes cars of the same model.’
But it also emerged today that Kravchenko knew for years that someone had wanted him dead after surviving two bungled murder attempts as well as four arson attacks at his Moscow factory.
It is understood Kravchenko – who despite his fears had no bodyguards – was killed close to Evloev’s high-security home near the historic village of Peredelkino, where writer Boris Pasternak penned Dr Zhivago.
‘I live not far from here and have CCTV cameras on my cottage, maybe they captured the killers,’ he said. ‘I have picked up the videotapes and passed them to police.’
Evloev is now understood to be under increased security.
A cousin of the ex-president of Ingushetia, Ruslan Aushev, Evloev was severely wounded in May 2008 when his car was shelled by automatic firearms in Nazran, the regional capital.
While the men do not look similar, the shooting – using handmade weapons – was at around 2am in a dimly lit lane.
Police say that Kravchenko, who built his business empire around his £130million-a-year March 8 furniture brand, was shot up to ten times before being hauled from his car and finished off with a bullet to the head.
Kravchenko’s circle claimed initially he had no enemies and was not concerned over his safety.
But a close friend has now said that he knew he was a marked man.
‘He knew he was in danger. We discussed it many times, but he didn’t want to live in a security bubble, the source told the Sunday Times.
‘He was reluctant to discuss security but, especially recently, he felt more at risk.’
After his funeral in Moscow last week, attended by several thousand mourners led by his elderly parents, friends also alleged he was under pressure from sinister forces seeking to grab his business assets.
He had been subjected to police raids in a move seen as pressurising him into giving up his assets.
The retail furniture business is seen as a notoriously shady sector in Russia and friends said he had battled various attempts to seize his company.
Kravchenko himself had complained of his sofa designs being pirated, yet he seemed unconcerned over any threats.
‘Mikhail had problems with the law-enforcement organs,’ insisted retail consultant Dmitry Potapenko, a close friend.
‘People were after his assets. The murder was not an accident. These people knew what they were doing. He was the head of the holding, he was the key figure, uniting the companies.’
He claimed collusion between the police and shadowy business figures led to Kravchenko’s murder.
Yet a close friend, famous TV presenter Nikolai Drozdov, with him shortly before he died, said Kravchenko was not concerned about his personal safety in his final hours.
‘He did not have a bodyguard, he drove himself everywhere in an old Mercedes,’ he said.
Another close business ally said: ‘This version of mistaken identity is certainly possible.’
Police are understood to be working on a number of theories and are checking his computers and mobile phone for clues.
Kravchenko was at the centre of a royal scandal in 2006 after being photographed hand-in-hand with the married princess in Venice, raising questions about the state of her marriage to Queen’s cousin Prince Michael of Kent.
Both denied an affair.
The princess – and her husband, who also knew Kravchenko – was last week said to be ‘very distressed’ over her friend’s murder.