Roman Igorevich Tsepov (Russian: Роман Игоревич Цепов, (July 22, 1962, Kolpino, Leningrad Oblast, USSR – September 24, 2004, Saint-Petersburg) was a Saint Petersburg businessman and confidant to Vladimir Putin during Putin's work at the Saint Petersburg City Administration. Born Belinson, Tsepov changed his surname upon marriage to Tsepova. Tsepov was suspected of criminal and corruption activity.
Upon graduation from the Supreme Political school of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR, Tsepov served in theInternal Troops as a political commissar. In 1990, he retired from the Ministry of Internal Affairs at the rank of captain.
In 1992, Tsepov founded the security firm "Baltik-Eskort". The idea to create this agency belonged to the future Putin's bodyguard Viktor Zolotov who later oversaw this agency as a member of the active reserve. The firm provided protection to high ranking Saint Petersburg officials, including the city mayor Anatoly Sobchak and his family, as well as the vice-mayor Vladimir Putin. In this role, Tsepov also acted as an "intermediary between Putin and business". At the same time "Baltik-Eskort" rendered security services to a number of criminal leaders, in particular Aleksandr Malyshev, the leader of "Malyshev's gang" and his family and several figures of the Tambov Gang.
In 1994, Tsepov was arrested on charges of illegal storage of weapons and drugs. It is rumored that the real reason for arrest was gathering of "protection" money to secure gambling licenses from city office of Vladimir Putin. Starting in 1993, there were five unsuccessful attempts on Roman Tsepov's life. His name appears in several criminal investigations, the last one being in March, 1998 on charges of extortion of 70 thousand dollars. Tsepov went into hiding and fled to Czech Republic.
Upon Vladimir Putin's coming to power, Tsepov became one of the most influential figures in the financial and political life of Saint Petersburg. He took part in the presidential inaugural ceremony of Vladimir Putin. Tsepov's power and influence were attributed to his close association with then Minister of Internal Affairs Rashid Nurgaliyev, the chief of Presidential Security Service Viktor Zolotov (Zolotov attended Tsepov's funeral) and deputy head of presidential administrationIgor Sechin.He was also affiliated with Saint Petersburg branches of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs and FSB.
Journalists named Roman Tsepov "a security oligarch" . Regarding all this real or rumored activity, Tsepov stated: "For some reason all the time Tsepov appeared to be the most convenient figure for rumors. Elections - Tsepov. Criminal investigations, tranches, credits, fuel business, security, a casino - Tsepov. Personnel rearrangements - me too. The grey cardinal necessarily should exists at king's court". In the summer of 2004, Tsepov was rumored to attempt to mediate between the government and YUKOS.
Death by poisoning
Tsepov fell sick on September 11, 2004, and died on September 24. A postmortem investigation found a poisoning by an unspecified radioactive material. He had symptoms similar to Aleksandr Litvinenko.
After playing a small part in Vladimir Bortko's mini-series Banditskiy Peterburg: Advokat (2000) Tsepov co-produced theVladimir Bortko's mini-series My Honor (2004). The series was awarded a TEFI, the highest television award in Russia, as best film.
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