Hunt for hitman in Romania after Mafia-style shooting of banker in Canary Wharf
Published: 06 February 2014
Updated: 17:29, 06 February 2014
Detectives investigating the Mafia-style attempted murder of a wealthy Russian banker in Canary Wharf have travelled to Romania in the hunt for the gunman, the Evening Standard has learned.
Police want to interview an alleged gangland hitman about the shooting in a London street of Moscow financier German Gorbuntsov. The move comes after the prime suspect in
the attempted assassination was extradited in secret from Russia to Romania on suspicion of another shooting.
Vitalie Proca, 34, a convicted killer with Moldovan citizenship, is wanted for questioning by Scotland Yard over the shooting of the multi-millionaire banker outside his luxury Docklands flat in March 2012.
Mr Gorbuntsov — who narrowly avoided death after being hit by six bullets fired from a Makarov semi-automatic pistol — and his Russian lawyer claim there is a pact between
Moscow and Bucharest that will prevent the suspect being quizzed by British police.
Scotland Yard detectives say they are liaising closely with Romanian counterparts over the two inquiries into alleged shootings involving Proca and have requested co-operation with the Russian authorities over the investigation.
Mr Gorbuntsov, 47, who is still undergoing treatment and lives under the guard of former Gurkha troops in London, said: "I know Russia allowed his extradition to Romania with one particular condition — he is never in touch with English police.
"It means he will never be questioned with regard of my case. I am absolutely sure of this information.
"I read it in a letter from the Romanian police to the UK police. So the Russian authorities clearly stated it to the Romanians — this suspect cannot be interrogated in England."
Proca was secretly extradited from Moscow to Bucharest in November, sources in Russia confirmed.
Mr Gorbuntsov's lawyer Vadim Vedenin said: "Nothing has changed in this. The Romanians got hold of Proca only under the condition that they would restrain him from contacts with the English side."
The banker has alleged his shooting was over a financial dispute and was ordered by ex-business partners with close ties to senior figures in Russian president Vladimir Putin's entourage. Det Ch Insp Russell Taylor, leading the Yard investigation, said: "We have been working together with the Romanians but it is too early to talk about extradition.
"We have a good working relationship with the Romanians. I am keen to engage with the Russians and make inroads with them on the inquiry."
Detectives have been examining Mr Gorbuntsov's past business dealings in a bid to establish a motive for the attempted murder. In a previous interview the banker said he believes he was attacked because he was preparing to give evidence to Russian prosecutors about a botched assassination attempt on Alexander Antonov, his ex-business partner.
Proca is now awaiting trial in Romania for a failed assassination when he reportedly attempted to kill a gangland rival of two brothers. Any extradition request by Britain will depend on the outcome of his trial there.
The Romanian Justice Ministry refused to answer whether it has given or will give their British colleagues access to the suspect.
Mr Gorbuntsov, who is still living in London at a secret address, said he still has medical problems resulting from the shots to his abdomen.
He added: "I have private guards, Gurkhas, the best soldiers in the world. The police also protect me. I have alarm buttons, a special telephone line. If I dial 999 I do not need to say anything, the police come."