Avtandil Khurtsidze indicted on racketeering charges
Avtandil Khurtsidze, the middleweight contender who was slated to face Billy Joe Saunders for the WBO middleweight title on July 8, was indicted on numerous charges related to his alleged involvement in a Russian and Georgian crime syndicate.
Khurtsidze was arrested with 32 others, it was revealed in a law enforcement news release detailing the alleged criminal enterprise based in Brooklyn, New York, where the Georgia native lives and trains.
Lou DiBella, who promotes Khurtsidze, told RingTV.com on Thursday that the fight against Saunders, scheduled to take place in London, has been postponed.
“It’s obviously very disappointing,” DiBella said. “You don’t live people’s lives for them. I don’t know any details, but this is a development we never expected or anticipated.”
The two charges levied against Khurtsidze, 38: one count of RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Each charge includes a maximum sentence of 20 years along with three years of supervised release and up to a $250,000 fine.
“Today, we have charged 33 members and associates of a Russian organized crime syndicate allegedly engaging a panoply of crimes around the country,” Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a statement. “The indictments include charges against the alleged head of this national criminal enterprise, one of the first federal racketeering charges ever brought against a Russian ‘vor (translated roughly as “thief-in-law” or “thief”).’
“The dizzying array of criminal schemes committed by this organized crime syndicate allegedly include a murder-for-hire conspiracy, a plot to rob victims by seducing and drugging them with chloroform, the theft of cargo shipments containing over 10,000 pounds of chocolate and a fraud on casino slot machines using electronic hacking devices.”
Khurtsidze (33-2-2, 22 knockouts) is a diminutive 160-pounder at just 5 feet 4 inches but, with his Mike Tyson-esque style to maneuver inside on larger foes and punching power, he scored a a number of impressive wins that earned him the No. 7 rating in THE RING Magazine’s middleweight ratings.
Khurtsidze upset then-top prospect Antoine Douglas last year with a 10th-round stoppage, an eye-opening performance on “ShoBox.” Khurtsidze then pummeled Brit Tommy Langford in five rounds in April to earn a mandatory title shot against Saunders.
With only one month out from the biggest fight of his life, Khurtsidze finds himself in jail instead of training camp and it’s unclear whether he’ll ever fight again.
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeCoppinger.
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