Professional boxer held on Russian gang charges

(iStock)
(iStock)

New York - A professional boxer a month away from a world middleweight championship bout in England was ordered held without bail in New York on Friday to await trial in a Russian organised crime case.

Allegations that Avtandil Khurtsidze, 37, was caught on video punching a confidential government source in a gang investigation were sufficient to convince U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest that Khurtsidze is a danger to the public and must remain behind bars.

Khurtsidze, listed on a Manhattan indictment with the alias "The Kickboxer," was arrested on Wednesday as charges were announced against over 30 people. The arrest forced the postponement of Khurtsidze's July 8 championship fight at Cooper Box Arena in London. He had just returned Wednesday from the Republic of Georgia, where his family resides.

Forrest said it was not a difficult decision to decide to order Khurtsidze's detention a day after a magistrate judge had set bail at $200 000, ordered electronic monitoring and said he could leave his residence to train or compete.

She said two videotapes and an audiotape of him committing violence at the crime organisation's central gathering spot demonstrated his danger to the community, and the assault against a government witness who was secretly recording his encounters "is a very disturbing event that I think properly colors the court's views of the other incidents."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Adams had asked Forrest to impose detention, saying the Brooklyn resident was likely to face a lengthy prison term if convicted on charges that he provided muscle to a criminal enterprise blamed for crimes including extortion, gambling, narcotics trafficking and identity theft crimes.

The prosecutor said Khurtsidze had delivered punches at least twice at a poker house to men associated with the crime organization.

"A professional fighter is not someone for whom a punch is a small thing," Adams said.

He said the government source was ordered to stand at attention as Khurtsidze delivered fists as punishment for what the crime group's leader believed was the theft of some house profits when he served as manager of the poker games.

Adams said violence or the threat of violence was critical to the organization's success.

He said Khurtsidze was a threat to flee because he has close ties to Georgia and the Ukraine, including $200 000 in a Georgia bank account.

Defense attorney Guy Oksenhendler suggested Khurtsidze may have been dared into throwing punches, saying his client was a victim of his own professional success because others try to entice him into compromising encounters.

"My client is a world class fighter," he said. "When you are a successful athlete, people want to be around you."

"He's a peaceful man. He's a warrior in the ring," Oksenhendler said.

The lawyer said Khurtsidze would not flee because his boxing promoter is in New York.

"His ability to fight is based on his ability to satisfy his contract here in the United States. That's his only way to make money," he said.

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