Shabattai Kalmanovich Dead: Former KGB Spy Killed In Moscow

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

MOSCOW — A Russian businessman who had been convicted in Israel of being a KGB spy was shot dead in Moscow on Monday, police said.

Shabattai Kalmanovich, 60, a colorful figure with a passion for basketball, was gunned down near his apartment in central Moscow by unidentified gunmen who shot at his Mercedes from a passing car, firing at least 20 bullets, Moscow city police said.

His driver was wounded, but tried to pursue the gunmen's car for several blocks, police said.

The killing appeared to have been carefully planned, and investigators are looking for at least two gunmen, Moscow Investigative Committee head Anatoly Bagmet said in televised remarks. He said the slaying might be related to Kalmanovich's business affairs or have been driven by "personal revenge."

Born in Soviet Lithuania in 1949, Kalmanovich emigrated to Israel in 1971. He reportedly agreed to spy for the KGB in return for permission to leave Lithuania.

In Israel, Kalmanovich eventually became a government adviser on the resettlement of Soviet Jews. He also worked as Israel's representative in Sierra Leone.

An Israeli court in 1988 convicted Kalmanovich of espionage and sentenced him to seven years in jail. He was released after serving five years and relocated to Sierra Leone, where he made a fortune in the diamonds trade.

Since 1994, Kalmanovich was director general of the large Tishinsky shopping center in Moscow. He also sponsored three basketball clubs, and became general manager of the Russian women's basketball team in 2008.

He was known as a concert promoter who brought Michael Jackson, Liza Minnelli and Jose Carreras to Russia.

The fatal shooting of Kalmanovich is reminiscent of the contract killings of businessmen that were common in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.