Szymkowicz & Szymkowicz
Szymkowicz & Szymkowicz, LLP specializes in international business transactions, investment counseling, major project financing and complex civil litigation involving such areas as defamation, breaches of contract, sophisticated commercial torts and fraudulent conveyances.
Currently, we are involved as counsel for both plaintiffs and defendants in the litigation of several multi-million dollar civil actions. We meet with senior business and government leaders on a regular basis.
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Fans Celebrate a Victory Over Redskins
Pedestrians Exercise Right to Walk to FedEx Field From Nearby Mall LotBy Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, November 15, 2004; Page B01
It was an hour before the opening kickoff when Norma Harkey and her 11-year-old daughter, Adrienne, strode briskly past the point on the narrow southbound sidewalk of Redskins Road where security guards used to stand, telling everyone to turn back.
Harkey, of Huntingtown in Calvert County , smiled broadly. “This is great,” she said. “I hated the buses.” Her comment might have seemed cryptic to anyone who had not followed the long legal battle over pedestrian access to FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins football team. But Harkey was in front of a pack of more than 100 other fans heading for the stadium without anyone trying to stop them, and they all knew what she meant.
There was laughter and excited talk as 2,000 fans left their cars in the huge parking lot at Landover Mall and walked undeterred down the hill to the stadium. The Prince George 's County Board of Administrative Appeals decided Oct. 27 hat the Redskins had no legal right to block that sidewalk, or any other pedestrian approach, on game days and designated yesterday as the beginning of a new era of sidewalk democracy.
Peggy Feltman, the longtime season ticket holder from Silver Spring who sued the county over the pedestrian restrictions, stood beaming as large clumps of fans rushed past her, their happy game faces on. "I feel good," she said.
As recently as two weeks ago, devoted Redskins followers had to pay $25 each to park their cars in one of the official team lots and then use buses to get from there to the stadium. The huge Landover Mall parking lot, 5,000 empty spaces only a short walk away, was not an option because the Redskins would not let anyone walk from that lot to FedEx Field, saying it was not safe to cross busy Landover Road . Prince George 's police agreed, pointing out that since FedEx Field opened in 1997, two pedestrians had been killed and 12 injured after being hit by cars on roads around the stadium. The post game fans, some of them having consumed alcohol, were particularly hard to control as they walked back to their cars, police said.
By yesterday, police had adjusted to the new rules. They were cheerily guiding Landover Mall parkers who had to cross Brightseat Road and then wait for a second battery of lights on Landover Road . Prince George's County police Sgt. Doug Epperson planted himself at the waiting spot for the Brightseat Road lights and addressed each new group of fans as if it was touring Walt Disney World. “It is about a 10-minute cycle between lights, and when you get to the other side it is another 10-minute wait, so make friends,” he said. He suggested gently that after the game, their senses might be somewhat impaired, “so stick to the same sidewalks.”
It seemed to work. The waits for the lights to change broke the pedestrians into groups of 100 to 200, large enough to catch the attention of motorists whizzing past on Redskins Road . J.P. Szymkowicz, the attorney who argued Feltman's case, said he hoped on future Sundays to see temporary barriers separate the sidewalk crowds from the automobile traffic.
Park America charged $15 a car to use the Landover Mall lot and said in a news release that “tailgating, alcoholic beverages and grills will be strictly prohibited.” But yesterday, the parking attendants let several people cook hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs and onions near the backs of their cars, and only a few drivers complained of being charged to park at what usually is a free lot. “They have to pay the people who are working here,” said Leigh Greenwell of Arlington , wearing her monogrammed Redskins jacket and sniffing hamburgers on a grill. “As long as our car isn't ripped off, we will be okay.”
Walkways To FedEx Will Open For Fans
Panel Overturns Pr. George's ClosureBy Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, October 28, 2004; Page B01
Washington Redskins fans will again be able to walk to FedEx Field starting Nov. 14, after a Prince George 's County panel last night lifted restrictions on pedestrian access that had been in place for most of four years.
The Board of Administrative Appeals decided that the county Department of Public Works and Transportation did not have authority to close five roads around the stadium and prevent pedestrians from walking to the game. County and team officials have argued that closing roads and sidewalks was necessary to protect fans crossing busy intersections, but board Chairman Raymond Krasnick said that did not make the policy legal.
“We couldn't find a legal precedent for it,” Krasnick said. “Certainly, safety was a factor, but we needed to find that the county had the legal authority to do it.”
County code indicates that road closures are permitted during road construction or utility work but not explicitly for public safety, according to the board.
County Executive Jack B. Johnson said that he supported the board's decision and that the county would not appeal. “I agree that citizens should have a right to walk to the stadium,” he said. “We'll work with the Redskins to ensure that people can get to the stadium safely.”
The decision opens Redskins Road, a short stretch that before the ban was commonly used by fans parking for free at Landover Mall. Garrett A. Morgan Boulevard , FedEx Way, Arena Drive and Hill Oaks Road also will be opened in time for the game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I can't believe this. I'm just in awe,” said Peggy Feltman, a longtime season ticket holder from Silver Spring who sued the county over the pedestrian restrictions. “I will be walking down Redskins Road leading the crowd . . . with a banner.”
The county will have to spend additional money to deploy more officers or develop another plan to protect fans, said Vernon Herron, the county's director of public safety.
Johnson said the road closures were useful because they allowed authorities to sweep the premises with bomb-sniffing dogs and other sensors before games.
“That is a little concern for us. We're going to try to work out some logistics that we can still protect the citizens that come to the games,” Johnson said.
The board said that in the interest of safety, the roads would remain closed for Sunday's game.
“Logistically, to change something this quickly, it would be a nightmare,” said Jim Keary, a spokesman for the county. The pedestrian restrictions that began four years ago were overturned briefly last year by a circuit court judge who ruled that the policy had been made without public notice. Redskins Road was opened without incident for the final Redskins game last year against the Philadelphia Eagles. But the Department of Public Works and Transportation reauthorized the policy this summer after a public hearing.
Disgruntled fans said the restriction discourages people from parking for free at Landover Mall and funnels them into distant lots operated by the Redskins, which charge $25. After the decision last night, fans were ready to get walking.
“We feel like our work has paid off,” said J.P. Szymkowicz, an attorney for the fans. “The public has a fundamental right to walk on public streets and sidewalks.”
Deportation Threat Lifted
Decisions Allow Russian to Stay in U.S. IndefinitelyBy Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 30, 2004; Page B06
A jet-setting Russian businessman and political opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin has won two rounds in his battle against the U.S. government's efforts to send him back to his native land. Late Wednesday, a federal judge in Alexandria released Alexandre Konanykhine from jail. On Tuesday, a Justice Department appeals panel that had ordered him deported to Russia reversed itself and said he should get a new hearing. The ruling effectively sends the eight-year-old case back to the beginning—and allows Konanykhine and his wife to stay in the United States indefinitely. “This is a dream come true for the Konanykhines. It allows them to begin their asylum proceedings anew and should permit them to remain in the U.S. for many years, if not forever,” said J.P. Szymkowicz, an attorney for Konanykhine and his wife, Elena Gratcheva. Konanykhine, who is staying in Vienna , said yesterday that he is “very grateful. I'm so glad the courts could interfere and that justice prevailed.” Garrison Courtney, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the government is “obviously at the will of the judges and the courts, and we will respect their decisions.” The agency had been prepared this week to deport Konanykhine immediately if a judge had agreed.
A former Internet banker who came to the United States with his wife in 1993, Konanykhine was arrested in his Watergate co-op apartment in June 1996 and charged with immigration fraud. The Russian government demanded his extradition on embezzlement charges.
Konanykhine has had dealings with opponents of Putin and contends that he and his wife would be killed if sent home. By pursuing the deportations, the couple contends, the U.S. government is helping Putin's efforts to suppress dissent. U.S. officials deny the case has political overtones.
An immigration judge in 1999 granted the couple political asylum, but that decision was overturned by the Justice Department panel in November. On Dec. 18, Konanykhine and his wife were pulled from their vehicle at a toll booth near the border with Canada , where they were hoping to seek asylum. But minutes before they were to be put aboard a flight to Moscow , U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III ordered a stay of the deportation. He then held a series of hearings before releasing Konanykhine.
U.S. Judge Rules Konanykhin Can Stay, For NowBy Catherine Belton
Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2004. Page 5
A federal judge ruled late Monday that the U.S. government wrongfully arrested and attempted to deport to Russia Alexander Konanykhin, a former business associate of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Judge T.S. Ellis' ruling means U.S. Homeland Security authorities cannot send Konanykhin to Russia , where he is wanted on embezzlement charges, until his appeal against a recent decision to overturn his political asylum is heard. “This decision will allow the Konanykhins to stay in the U.S. pending the outcome of their immigration appeals,” Konanykhin's lawyer J.P. Szymkowicz said by telephone from Washington. “The United States is where they want to be.”
But the Homeland Security Department, into which the Immigration and Naturalization Service has been subsumed, is likely to appeal Monday's ruling, meaning Konanykhin would remain in U.S. custody, Szymkowicz said.
Ellis has scheduled another hearing for Wednesday. If the government appeals, Ellis could rule to release Konanykhin under electronic monitoring, allowing officials to keep tabs on his movements, Szymkowicz said.
“The INS will argue that he's still in their custody,” he said. “But what good is this victory if he is still kept in jail? ... This could go on for years.”
Konanykhin and his wife, Yelena Gracheva, were arrested by Homeland Security officials on Dec. 18 at the U.S.-Canadian border, four weeks after a U.S. Immigration appeals board overturned their asylum status in the United States. The following day Ellis ruled to stay their deportation just minutes before they were to be put on a plane back to Moscow.
On Monday, Ellis ruled that the arrest and deportation attempt was in breach of a 1997 agreement that allowed Konanykhin to stay in the United States pending final resolution of his immigration status.
During the hearings, which began almost two weeks ago, Ellis frequently questioned why the U.S. government appeared to be in a rush to send Konanykhin back to Russia before he was able to appeal the November reversal of his asylum status.
He accused the U.S. government of entering into a special pact with Moscow to return him to Russia.
Monday's ruling comes as the latest twist in an almost decade-long conflict over Konanykhin's immigration status in the United States , where he arrived in 1992 to run Khodorkovsky's banking operations there. After Russian law enforcement officers charged him in 1994 with embezzling $8.1 million from the All Russian Exchange Bank, he was jailed for 13 months on immigration fraud charges, but was later granted political asylum in 1999.
A month after Khodorkovsky was arrested in Moscow , U.S. officials issued a sudden ruling to overturn Konanykhin's asylum status and deport him to Russia . Gracheva was given 30 days to voluntarily leave the country.
Two other cases to appeal that ruling are pending in U.S. courts.
Judge Says U.S. Can't Deport Banker to Russia YetBy Deborah Charles
Mon January 26, 2004 07:01 PM ET
ALEXANDRIA , Va. (Reuters) - A federal judge on Monday ruled that a former Russian banker, who has ties to a jailed Russian oil magnate, should not be deported until he exhausts his legal effort to seek asylum in the United States.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, who has repeatedly accused the U.S. government of wanting to deport Alexander Konanykhin just to carry out a special deal with Moscow , said the banker could stay in the country to appeal his deportation.
Konanykhin had business ties to Mikhail Khodorkovsky -- the billionaire former chief of YUKOS oil company who is in jail in Russia on fraud and tax evasion charges. Khodorkovsky's arrest in October was widely viewed as orchestrated by the Kremlin to reign in his political ambitions. Konanykhin, who is wanted in Russia on charges of embezzling millions of dollars from his former bank, fled Russia in late 1992 and came to the United States .
In court papers, he said the Russians would torture and kill him to get information, including about Khodorkovsky.
After a series of legal battles over his status in the United States, Konanykhin was granted asylum in 1999 by an Immigration Court judge who said Konanykhin had demonstrated a "well-founded fear of persecution" if he returned to Russia.
The government appealed and a Justice Department Board of Immigration Appeals overturned the court's decision in November 2003. It ruled that Konanykhin faced no risk of political persecution if he were sent back to Russia . Konanykhin appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond , Virginia . He also sought a review of the Board of Immigrations Appeals decision. Both are pending.
While waiting for the appeals, Konanykhin and his wife were arrested in December by U.S. officials who prepared to deport him. Ellis stayed the deportation just as Konanykhin was about to board a flight to Moscow . Ellis ruled on Monday that by arresting and trying to deport Konanykhin, the U.S. government had breached the terms of a 1997 deal with immigration authorities which lets him stay in the United States pending final outcome of his asylum request. Ellis set a hearing for Wednesday to see if the government would appeal his ruling. Konanykhin would likely be released under house detention if the government appeals, Ellis said.
Konanykhin's lawyer, J.P. Szymkowicz, said his client was relieved by Ellis's decision.
"The Konanykhins are so relieved that they have a light at the end of the tunnel to look toward, and they look forward to the day when they can go to bed secure in their freedom," he said after the hearing.
Although Ellis often accused the government -- which does not have an extradition treaty with Russia -- of having an agreement with Moscow to deport Konanykhin, he admitted that he did not have jurisdiction over the actual deportation order.
"I hope somebody in the executive branch ... is proud, is able to stand up and say what we are doing is right," he said. "But I doubt that -- and it makes me a little angry."
INS Says Court's Decision IrrelevantBy Catherine Belton
Monday, Jan. 19, 2004 . Page 1
ALEXANDRIA , Virginia -- For a few minutes late on Thursday, it looked like controversial former banker Alexander Konanykhin would walk out of federal court a free man.
On the second day of hearings, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis nearly made a snap decision in favor of Konanykhin, who is being detained pending a ruling on his arrest and attempted deportation by U.S. authorities to Russia. But then U.S. Assistant Attorney William Howard made it clear that the Immigration and Naturalization Service would by no means approve his release, no matter what Ellis ruled.
Even in the case of a favorable ruling for Konanykhin, "it is still up to the [INS] director whether to keep him in the slammer. I don't think so," said Ellis. "That should be repugnant to any person."
"Let's not be obtuse about this or blind. There is a significant interest in [Konanykhin's] return by the Russian government. And there is an interest by the U.S. government in satisfying that," Ellis said. Ellis vowed, however, to continue looking into the case.
After a few minutes of deliberation, Ellis decided to give the defense more time in the complex legal wrangle. He scheduled the closing arguments for Jan. 26.
It was another moment of drama in a politically charged case marked by speculation, voiced by the presiding judge in particular, that the U.S. government is attempting to skew due process because it has entered into a pact with Moscow to return him to Russia , where he is wanted on embezzlement charges.
Konanykhin claims the sudden November overturning of the political refugee status that he gained in 1999, as well as his subsequent detention as he and his wife attempted to flee to Canada , is linked to the Kremlin's legal campaign against his former business associate Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Khodorkovsky was arrested on fraud and tax evasion charges Oct. 25.
There is speculation that President Vladimir Putin could be seeking the return of Konanykhin as a key witness to settle scores with kingpins who squirreled billions of dollars out of the country during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin.
"If they get Konanykhin in Moscow , then they will be able to get those responsible for funneling the nation's billions out of the country," said Yury Shvets, a former senior KGB officer, who now has political asylum in the United States.
Konanykhin made a fortune at the age of 23 by running -- together with former KGB chairman Leonid Shebarshin -- the All Russian Exchange Bank, the first Russian bank to gain a license for hard-currency operations after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
According to Konanykhin, that relationship soured in 1992, and he fled to the United States where he hooked up with Khodorkovsky to run the U.S. operations of Bank Menatep. But he soon came under scrutiny by Russian investigators for allegedly stealing $8.1 million from the All RussianExchange Bank, and later by U.S. authorities on allegations of financial improprieties through his Antigua-based European Union Bank.
Konanykhin says he created the bank, touted as the world's first Internet bank, for Menatep. Khodorkovsky was a board member of EUB and president of Menatep. According to a Federal Reserve Bank memo obtained by The Moscow Times, the chief partner of Konanykhin's bank was Swiss American bank, owned by banker Bruce Rappaport.
Rappaport was reported to be a key link in the Bank of New York money laundering affair, but no charges were brought against him.
Konanykhin denies any wrongdoing. The Antiguan bank has since had its license revoked, but no criminal charges were ever filed.
On Thursday a senior officer for the INS conceded that the service had "a special interest" in sending Konanykhin back to Moscow.
"Konanykhin was of special interest to the U.S. government," Lisa Hoechst, acting chief for the INS team charged with the businessman's "removal" to Russia , said in testimony.
"Because he was wanted in Russia for a criminal offense and because of his previous history with the government of litigation, they wanted us to remove him before any additional suits could be filed," she said. Ellis expressed disbelief.
"I think I understand. But if I do, it's astonishing," he said. In the hearing Ellis is set to rule on the technical issue of whether or not the INS broke a 1997 agreement with Konanykhin by rushing to arrest and deport him to Russia before the courts had a chance to hear his appeal on his asylum case.
Konanykhin filed a $100 million lawsuit against the U.S. government in 1997 after a federal court ruled a 1996 attempt by authorities to deport him to Russia , and his subsequent jailing for 13 months, had been based on cooked-up charges of immigration and visa fraud.
In 1998 Konanykhin agreed for the damages suit to be put on hold pending final resolution of his immigration status, according to his lawyer J.P. Szymkowicz.
During hearings into his appeal against the immigration fraud charges in 1997, evidence was unveiled showing U.S. authorities had entered into a quid pro quo agreement with Moscow over Konanykhin.
According to a 1995 FBI internal memo obtained by The Moscow Times, Russian military prosecutors were requesting a return favor from the newly opened FBI office in Moscow for Russian cooperation on a U.S. investigation into American-based mobster Vyacheslav Ivankov, known as "Yaponchik."
"The general procurate is still treating the liaison process very much on a quid pro quo basis," it says. "In the absence of an extradition law, are there any immigration violations outstanding allowing immigration authorities to deport Konanykhin to Russia to stand trial for ... embezzlement?" The memo was faxed from the Moscow office to headquarters in the United States .
It is not clear whether the Nov. 20 ruling by the U.S. Immigration Board of Appeals to overturn the asylum status he won in 1999 took more than four years because of a backlog of cases. It is also not clear whether the decision to detain him and get him out the country was a move to head off paying damages Konanykhin had filed, or whether it was part of a pact to get him to Russia as quickly as possible.
"It makes me very sad and angry to know that the U.S. government is trying to send innocent people to death because of some dirty and petty political considerations," said Konanykhin's wife Yelena Grachyova in an interview. Ellis urged Konanykhin's lawyers to seek a third-country haven for Konanykhin and his wife as the only way of testing whether the United States had made a deal to ship Konanykhin back to Russia or not.
The INS said it would not allow Konanykhin to go to Canada without refugee status because it is a country contiguous to the United States .
"My point is that the United States has the power not to return him to Russia ," Ellis said. "If we don't have a deal with Russia , then let's see if he can go somewhere else." Ellis pointed out the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia , the usual device for quid pro quo agreements on cooperation.
"One of the conditions of an extradition treaty is that we're happy in sending people to that country," he said. "Maybe we're not fully satisfied with due process available in Russia . I hope someone in the executive branch is asking themselves whether this is really the right thing to do in this case."
The INS claims it received confidential information from its Canadian counterparts that Canada would reject Konanykhin's asylum application there.
Law enforcement officials from both sides were not immediately available to comment, and the INS would not disclose the information it had received, citing a confidentiality agreement.
Ellis' ruling a week from Monday will hinge on whether Konanykhin had the right to travel freely in the United States under the terms of a 1997 settlement agreement he reached with the INS.
Although the original agreement specifies he should request permission every time he wanted to travel, Konanykhin claims he later reached a verbal agreement with INS officers.
The only evidence testifying to this agreement, he claims, is a letter from the INS that was in a suitcase put on the plane to Moscow during the December deportation attempt. It has not been returned.
Ellis' ruling will not decide Konanykhin's asylum status. Two other cases -- one to stay his deportation and another to appeal the Immigration Board's ruling -- are still pending.
U.S. Judge Questions Russian's DetentionBy Catherine Belton
Friday, Jan. 16, 2004. Page 1
ALEXANDRIA , Virginia —Court hearings on the arrest and attempted deportation to Moscow of banker-turned-software magnate Alexander Konanykhin, who says he fears death if returned, went into a second day Thursday.
Even though the presiding judge on Wednesday accused the U.S. government of entering into a special pact with Russian authorities to speed up Konanykhin's deportation to Russia , the outcome was still unclear by press time.
But as the court reconvened Thursday morning, a lawyer for Konanykhin said: “It appears to be going our way.”
The day before, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis lambasted the U.S. government, questioning why it had rushed Konanykhin's deportation before he could appeal a November ruling that overturned his political asylum. “I have the firm impression that it is the strong desire of people in the executive branch to return this man to Russia for what reason I cannot tell,” Ellis said. “It stinks.”
Konanykhin ran the U.S. operations of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Bank Menatep for several years after arriving in America in 1992.
He eventually won political asylum in the United States in 1999 after a protracted courtroom battle over his legal status that arose from an earlier attempt by Russian authorities to have him deported on embezzlement charges. But in a shock ruling Nov. 20, the U.S. Immigration Board of Appeals suddenly overturned his refugee status after four years of making no moves to decide on a Department of Justice appeal lodged in 1999.
The board concluded Konanykhin would not face political persecution if he returned to Russia .
Although Konanykhin filed to appeal that ruling in a Richmond , Virginia , court, where it is still pending, he and his wife, Yelena Grachyova, attempted to flee to Canada and seek political asylum there on Dec. 18.
They were seized in a dramatic arrest by agents from the Immigration and Naturalization Service just as they were attempting to cross the border.
Dressed in a black sweater and jeans, Konanykhin took the stand for the first time Wednesday, stumbling over his English.
He claimed he and his wife had fled because he feared their imminent deportation.
Konanykhin testified that he had made an appointment with a Canadian immigration officer who was waiting on the other side of the border to discuss his eligibility for political asylum in Canada .
Konanykhin called the immigration board's ruling “a death sentence hanging over our heads.” By going to Canada , “we were basically trying to save our lives.”
Ellis raised questions Wednesday as to why the U.S. authorities appeared to be rushing to send them back to Moscow.
“Why before his appeal is allowed to be heard, suddenly... [the U.S. government] wants to send him back to Russia. Doesn't it trouble someone [that if that happened] his claim would never be heard?” he asked.
Konanykhin testified that following the December arrest, he and his wife were whisked to Washington 's Reagan airport, where INS officers made them run to catch a flight to New York.
A last minute intervention by Ellis halted the deportation only minutes before they were to be put on a connecting flight to Moscow.
“I would hope that some executive branch policy involving some promise, some quid pro quo to the Russian police or executive who wants Mr. Konanykhin ... wouldn't deter our government from honoring ... the heart of an agreement to let him have his asylum claim adjudicated,” Ellis said. In an interview on Wednesday, Grachyova, who has a different immigration status than her husband, said she and her husband only wanted to “live a normal life.”
“We felt like we were being crushed between two superpowers all the time.”
The INS argues that the Nov. 20 ruling gave it a final and enforceable order to deport Konanykhin back to Russia because the former banker had not filed to stay deportation. The INS claims Konanykhin's attempt to cross the Canadian border was a violation of a 1997 deal with immigration authorities that allowed him to stay in America until a final ruling on his asylum request. It maintains that this breach of the agreement gave authorities the right to detain him. Konanykhin, however, claims subsequent modifications to his 1997 agreement with immigration allowed him to travel freely across the United States without seeking the government's permission. He says the agreement also contained no provision preventing him from leaving the country.
On Wednesday, Konanykhin testified that one of the INS officers who detained him at the Canadian border had said it was unusual to make an arrest while an asylum appeal was still pending.
Ellis is due to rule on whether Konanykhin's attempt to flee was in breach of the 1997 agreement or not. Though his decision could free Konanykhin from detention in an Arlington , Virginia , jail, it will not decide Konanykhin's final status.
Two other cases are pending: one to stay his deportation and the other to appeal the asylum ruling and reconsider his case in the light of the legal campaign in Russia against Khodorkovsky and his associates.
On Wednesday the Alexandria court heard Konanykhin and his Canadian immigration lawyer, John Somjen, who testified by telephone conference call.
Thursday's hearing began with an INS attorney cross-examining Konanykhin, followed by testimony from Grachyova and the INS officer who escorted the couple to the plane that should have taken them back to Russia .
Konanykhin Hearing BeginsBy Valeria Korchagina
Thursday, Jan. 15, 2004. Page 5
The U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, began hearing an extradition case Wednesday against Alexander Konanykhin, a Russian businessman wanted in Moscow on fraud charges dating from the early 1990s.
Konanykhin, a one-time business partner of jailed former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was arrested in mid-December by Homeland Security officers as he and his wife, Yelena Gracheva, tried to drive to Canada in an apparent move to avoid deportation to Russia. Russian prosecutors have alleged that Konanykhin embezzled $8 million in state funds.
Konanykhin, 37, one of Russia 's first post-Soviet millionaires and until 1995 vice president of Khodorkovsky's Bank Menatep, has lived in the United States since the mid-1990s.
In 1996 Konanykhin managed to avoid deportation on charges that he violated visa rules, and he was awarded political refugee status in 1999 after a judge concluded he would be in extreme danger from the authorities if he returned to Russia.
By the mid-1990s Konanykhin's financial dealings had also attracted the attention of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. He reportedly had run offshore banking operations from the United States for his Russian partners, through the Antigua-registered European Union Bank. According to The Washington Post, some $12 million left Russia via its accounts before it closed in 1996.
But on Nov. 20, the U.S. Justice Department overturned the decision by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and issued a deportation order for Konanykhin.
He narrowly escaped being put on the next flight to Moscow after a judge in Alexandria became suspicious at the speed of the intended deportation. Instead, Konanykhin was held in Arlington jail, awaiting a court hearing.
"I think it will all turn into a political case, which I stand no chance of winning," Konanykhin told NTV television by telephone from jail, shortly before appearing in court on Wednesday. "Nobody is going to consider what is just, but there will be huge pressure to turn the case into something like the 1930s show trials."
Konanykhin's lawyer, Michael Maggio, said he was surprised by the whole nature of the situation. "I never heard of a person who wanted to leave the U.S. after receiving a deportation order being prevented from doing so," he told NTV in a voice-over interview.
But in an e-mail last November, Konanykhin told The Moscow Times that the deportation order specified he could leave the United States for Russia , but not for any other country.
In comments carried by NTV on Tuesday, Konanykhin said his deportation case had turned into a "crazy race" after Khodorkovsky's arrest on Oct. 25.
Yet Gracheva this week maintained that U.S. law enforcement is more eager to send her husband to Russia , than Russia is to acquire him.
According to Gracheva, after his arrest Konanykhin was brought to the Russian Embassy in Washington, but embassy staff refused to accept custody of him.
Gracheva told NTV: "[Representatives of the] American side screamed at the Russian side, 'We have agreements!' The Russian consul replied, 'Yes, I understand, but since you have them anyway, they are not going to disappear.'"
Deputy Consul Vadim Savelyev told NTV that that were no prior agreements to deport Konanykhin, nor were documents prepared for the procedure. Konanykhin appears not to have a valid Russian passport.
The results of the Virginia court hearing were not available at press time late Wednesday.
Pedestrians Can Hit Road To Final Redskins Game
Judge Declines to Delay Avenue's ReopeningBy Joshua Partlow and Raymond McCaffrey
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, December 23, 2003; Page B01
Washington Redskins fans attending this season's final home game on Saturday night will be able to walk to FedEx Field on Redskins Road for the first time in three years. A Prince George 's County judge yesterday denied the county's request to keep the public road off-limits to pedestrians until after the season. Last week, Circuit Court Judge Sheila R. Tillerson-Adams ruled in favor of football fans who sued to overturn a county policy prohibiting people from walking up Redskins Road to the Landover stadium on game days. She said the policy was created illegally by the FedEx Field “coordinatinggroup”—made up of county, Redskins, stadium and citizens representatives—because it was done without the public's knowledge.
A county lawyer asked the judge to stay her decision until after Saturday's game, against the Philadelphia Eagles, because there was not enough time to adopt pedestrian safety procedures. But Tillerson-Adams denied the request yesterday in a conference call, according to attorneys involved in the lawsuit. “This is what we expected,” said John Szymkowicz, an attorney for one of the fans who sued. “If the judge says the activity was illegal, how can you legitimize that activity by letting it go on?”
Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson said that, as a result, the team “can't restrict access to the stadium in any way” for Saturday's game. “We're counting on the Prince George 's County police . . . to do everything they can to protect people who are attending the game,” he said.
A police spokesman said the department might assign additional officers to direct traffic at the stadium.
Usually, about 180 police officers work at FedEx Field and the surrounding area on game days, Capt. Kevin Putnam said. “If we have a high volume of [pedestrians], that does present an issue, especially as it's late at night and will be dark,” Putnam said. “We'll do our best.”
Saturday's game is scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m. Although officials say Redskins Road will be open to pedestrians this weekend, its status next season is unclear.
The judge's ruling last week said the coordinating group—created in 1996 by the Prince George 's County Council to monitor traffic, public safety and parking at FedEx Field—did not have the authority to close public roads. But the decision left open the possibility that the group could go through other channels, such as the County Council, to get permission to restrict access in the future.
Parking and pedestrian access procedures this season have angered some Redskins fans. Season-ticket holders with permits can park in spaces adjacent to the stadium, but others have complained that restricting pedestrian access along Redskins Road forced them to park at distant lots that charge $25 and then take shuttle buses to the game.
Some fans who tried to park at nearby Landover Mall this season and walk to the game were rebuffed by metal barricades, FedEx Field security and county police.
To make it to the game, some tried to hail passing cars, and others walked about two miles to another entrance on Arena Drive.
Judge Backs Fans in a Walk
Redskins Can't Block Pedestrian Access to Games, Court SaysBy Joshua Partlow and Raymond McCaffrey
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, December 18, 2003; Page B01
A Prince George 's County judge yesterday invalidated a policy that restricts pedestrian access to FedEx Field during Redskins games, saying it was adopted illegally without the public's knowledge.
Circuit Court Judge Sheila Tillerson-Adams ruled in favor of football fans who sued to overturn the county policy, though it is unclear whether her decision will force officials to open Redskins Road to foot traffic in time for this season's final home game.
A county lawyer asked her to keep the road off-limits for the Dec. 27 game against the Philadelphia Eagles because there is not enough time to adopt new procedures for pedestrian safety. The judge is scheduled to decide on that request Monday. After hearing arguments yesterday morning, Tillerson-Adams determined that a FedEx Field “coordinating group” made up of county, Redskins, stadium and citizen representatives violated Maryland 's Open Meetings Act when it approved the policy in August without giving public notice. The Prince George 's County Council created the coordinating group in 1996 to monitor public safety, traffic and parking issues at the stadium in Landover.
Season ticket holders who buy permits to park in lots adjacent to the stadium were unaffected by the Prince George's policy, but others complained that it forced them to park at distant lots that charge $25 and then ride shuttle buses. Some fans unaware of the rule—or determined to thwart it – tried to park at nearby Landover Mall and walk to the stadium. But they encountered metal barricades and FedEx Field security guards who turned them away. In the resulting confusion, some resorted to hitchhiking into the stadium or waving down taxis. Their other option was to walk about two miles to an entrance on Arena Drive . “I think this is a victory for all Redskins fans, because it opens up the passageway to the stadium. It frees up the hassle,” said Peggy Feltman, a season ticket holder and lead plaintiff in the two lawsuits that challenged the policy. Feltman, who describes herself as a Redskins fan for more than 40 years, runs a ticket-brokering business from her Silver Spring home. Jay Creech, a Prince George 's lawyer who represented the coordinating group, said county officials had not decided yesterday whether to appeal the ruling or seek alternatives to having fans walk along congested Redskins Road . Team spokesman Karl Swanson said the ruling does not change the fact that “public safety issues still exist.”
During the hearing, Creech did not contest that the coordinating group's Aug. 5 decision was made in private, but he argued that it was legal because the panel was “administering the law, not legislating.” Closing the road was an executive rather than legislative action and did not require public scrutiny, Creech said. State law says an executive function applies to meetings at which elected officials are not developing a new policy. Pedestrian restrictions have been enforced on Redskins Road since October 2000, but the policy was adopted for this season in August. “This wasn't a devious plan,” Creech said. “The coordinating group was going through the procedure it understood.”
But Tillerson-Adams ruled that creating the policy was a legislative function requiring public notice. When there is a meeting to decide to close a road, she said, “then there's another ordinance that governs that.” She said she did not believe the violation of the state's 1993 Open Meetings Act was willful. Parking and access issues have been a frequent source of public discussion this season. The Redskins say they provide plenty of parking: 25,000 spots for season-ticket permit holders near the stadium and 5,800 spaces in cash lots farther away. But fans who lack season permits say they should have a right to park free of charge in nearby Landover Mall and walk to the game, rather than pay $25 for off-site stadium parking.
Feltman is also the lead plaintiff in a separate lawsuit against the Redskins (operating as Pro-Football Inc.) and WFI Stadium Inc., the owner of FedEx Field, seeking class-action relief on behalf of ticket holders barred from Redskins Road . That case has yet to go before a judge, said Feltman's attorney, J.P. Szymkowicz.
“The Redskins took away parking options and thus were able to raise the price of parking at the stadium and leased lots,” Szymkowicz said.
Suit Takes On Redskins for Blocking Fans
Drivers Who Use Free Mall Lot Can't Walk Straight to StadiumBy Joshua Partlow and Raymond McCaffrey
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 17, 2003; Page B01
Through 40-plus years and three stadiums, Peggy Feltman has been a loyal Washington Redskins fan. She'll even give them the benefit of the doubt about the painful season coming to a close.
“I think they had some bad breaks. There were some calls that went against them, but there wasn't anything they could do about it,” said Feltman, who runs a ticket brokering business from her Silver Spring home.
But today Feltman will line up against her favorite team in court, contesting a policy that restricts pedestrian access to games at FedEx Field. She said the rules keep fans from walking up Redskins Road , forcing them to park in distant cash lots and take shuttle buses to the game.
Feltman is lead plaintiff in two lawsuits filed in Prince George 's County Circuit Court that attack the policy from different flanks.
The first, filed in December 2002 against Pro-Football Inc. and WFI Stadium Inc., the owner of FedEx Field, seeks class-action relief on behalf of ticket holders who are barred by metal barricades and security personnel from walking on public roads and sidewalks to the game, said Washington lawyer J.P. Szymkowicz, who represents Feltman.
“It's a great inconvenience. It's denying me the choice to walk on a public sidewalk,” Feltman said. “Everyone I've talked to is pretty upset about this. I'm just the one that's taken the initiative.”
The second suit, filed in September, claims that the pedestrian policy should be voided because it is the product of a private meeting of team, stadium and county officials, in violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act. Judge Sheila Tillerson-Adams is scheduled to hear the second case today.
The Redskins contend that they do not want to impede fans or do anything that would make their game experience unpleasant. The team says it provides more parking than any other in the league: 25,000 close-in spots for season ticket holders and 5,800 in cash lots farther away.
Redskins spokeswoman Michelle Tessier said the team has “gotten a lot of positive response” to the parking plan, which she said “allows people to get in and out more easily.”
Stadium officials said the restrictions on foot traffic up Redskins Road , which began in October 2000, are for public safety. It's dangerous, officials said, for fans to cross the busy intersection at Brightseat Road to get to the game. But Szymkowicz said that no evidence of safety problems has been offered and that the Redskins just want to prevent fans from using free parking at nearby Landover Mall and herd them into $25 pay parking sites away from the stadium.
“Also, they only close [ Redskins Road ] going to the stadium, they don't close it coming out [after the game]. If it were a public safety issue, it would be closed both ways,” Szymkowicz said.
The decision to restrict pedestrian access before this season was made during an Aug. 5 meeting of the “coordinating group,” a public body created in 1996 that includes Prince George 's County Chief Administrative Officer Jacqueline Brown, county police representatives and Redskins officials, according to court documents. The group did not make the meeting public or take public comment before making the decision, the lawsuit said.
The coordinating group responded that the decision to restrict pedestrian access was an “executive function” of the public body, rather than a “legislative function,” and therefore did not require public scrutiny, according to court documents submitted by Jay H. Creech of the Prince George 's County attorney's office. An executive function, according to state law, applies to meetings at which elected officials are not developing “a new policy.” Szymkowicz said restricting access was a legislative function.
“We're claiming they carried out a legislative function because legislators change rules,” he said.
William Varga, an assistant attorney general for Maryland , said “ ‘executive function' is probably the most confusing part of the Open Meeting Act. . . . If they're making new policy . . . it cannot be an executive function.” Besides being an inconvenience, Feltman said, the restrictions on pedestrians also damage her business. She said the extra expense of paying for parking discourages people from attending games and buying her tickets. Last year, the first time Feltman tried to walk up Redskins Road and was rebuffed by security, she said she was so upset she walked back to her car and skipped the game.
“It's actually taken all the fun out of going to the games,” she said.
Szymkowicz & Szymkowicz
Szymkowicz & Szymkowicz
John Thomas Szymkowicz
In private practice, 1976 to present
Owner of, or Partner in, various firms, 1980 to present
Szymkowicz & Szymkowicz, LLP, August 1998 to present
Responsibilities include: Representing parties in complex civil cases in state and federal courts and in arbitration; drafting and reviewing contracts; advising businesses in general corporate matters, including preparation of business plans and in establishing a strategic focus; representing foreign governments and non-U.S. citizens in wide variety of civil and criminal matters.
Attorney for Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, Washington, D.C.
Represented Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington D.C. as well as the Cultural and Medical Divisions of the Embassy and the Military Attaché’s Office from 1987 through 2001. Also represented members of the country’s ruling family, the Ambassadors and other diplomats, the Central Bank, many U.A.E. students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities and over five hundred U.A.E. military personnel serving in U.S. training programs. Maintain strong contacts at highest levels of Abu Dhabi Royal Family, U.A.E. Foreign Service and Military.
Licensed by U.S. Treasury Department to Represent Libyan Government Provided advice to senior officials in the Libyan Government concerning U.S. law, including sovereign immunity, head of state immunity, sanctions for dealing with Libyan entities and Pan Am Flight 103/Lockerbie litigation.
Invited by Libyan Government to Deliver Lectures at Various Televised Conferences Delivered lectures to conferences in Maastricht, Holland and Valletta, Malta which were televised in ____________ concerning U.S./Libyan relations.
Established Familiarity with Special Aspects of Islamic Banking
Zarur v. Central Bank of United Arab Emirates CA 88-468-A (E.D.VA.) Successfully represented UAE Central Bank in action brought by disgruntled consultant.
First American Bank et al. v. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, et al., CA 93-1309 (D.D.C.). Represented the third largest shareholder of the holding company established by BCCI to purchase First American Bank. Client was one of only two defendants, and the only defendant from the United Arab Emirates, who did not pay Plaintiffs to dismiss their claims.
Advised U.S. Law Firms and Corporations on Middle East Laws, Customs and Business Practices.
Counseled numerous Foreign and Domestic Entities on Compliance with U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Asset Control Regulations.
Lead Attorney in Several Cases which Helped Define U.S. Sovereign Immunity Law
M.C.I. v. Alhadhood, et al., 82 F.3d 658 (5th Cir. 1996), cert. denied,
M.C.I. Telecommunications Corp. v. United Arab Emirates, et al., 519 U.S. 1007 (1996). Successfully represented the UAE in overturning a 1.1 million dollar judgment through denial of Petition for Certiorari filed by MCI in the US Supreme Court.
Sturdza v. UAE, (D.D.C.), Case # -CV-98-2051.
Successfully defended the UAE in a breach of contract and copyright infringement brought by architect. Won case on Summary Judgment. Architect represented by Covington & Burlington. Case was later overturned on appeal. (UAE was represented by new counsel on appeal).
Major Aviation Tort
Panahi v. ValuJet Airlines, Inc. St. Ct. Ful. Cty. GA 97-VS-0131962j Plaintiff’s Counsel in ValuJet Flight 592 Litigation Represented estates of UAE-Iranian family, which perished in the 1996 Valu-Jet Flight 592 airplane crash.
United States Supreme Court, Fourth and Fifth Circuits,
All State and Federal Courts in the District of Columbia and Maryland
Pro Hac Vice appearances in California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming
United States Marine Corps, Active Duty, 1968-1971, Inactive Reserves, 1971-1976 Honorable Discharge as Captain, June 1976 Served as supply officer in Viet Nam, Okinawa, and Camp Le Jeune, North Carolina. Decorations include Navy Commendation Medal with Combat V. Received highest fitness report for a lieutenant in an infantry battalion engaged in combat operations in Viet Nam.
Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC Juris Doctor, May 1974
University of Maryland School of Business and Public Administration, College Park, Maryland
Bachelor of Science in Economics, June 1968
John Paul ("J.P") Szymkowicz
Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, New York
Szymkowicz & Szymkowicz, LLP
1220 19th Street, N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20036-2438 May 1994 to present
Prevented Illegal Deportation of Famous Russian Immigration and Customs Enforcement v. Konanykhine
LEAD ATTORNEY Successfully proved in USDC (ED VA) that INS’ successor, ICE, illegally arrested and attempted to deport Russian billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s former business partner
Overturned FedExField Sidewalk Ban Feltman v. FedExField Coordinating Group LEAD ATTORNEY Represented plaintiffs in action in Prince George’s County Circuit Court that resulted in the reversal of the ban on pedestrian access to FedExField prior to Washington Redskins games
$33,500,000 Jury Verdict Konanykhine v. Izvestia Newspaper (later vacated on jurisdictional grounds)
SOLE ATTORNEY Represented party alleging defamation in Arlington County Circuit Court
$3,000,000 Jury Verdict Konanykhine v. Kommersant Publishing House SOLE ATTORNEY Represented party alleging defamation in Arlington County Circuit Court
$49,500 Jury Verdict McCrae v. Schoon
SOLE ATTORNEY Represented party alleging workplace battery in Howard County (Md.) Circuit Court
$50,000 Summary Judgment Award Celestin v. Richardson SOLE ATTORNEY Obtained pre-trial award in breach of contract/fraud case in Montgomery County (Md.) Circuit Court
Dismissal of $400,000 Breach of Contract Matter BB&T Bank v. Business Equipment Center, et al.
LEAD ATTORNEY Represented attorney who was sued by a bank for breach of a guaranty agreement in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Case dismissed on jurisdictional grounds.
Successful Appeal to U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit El-Hadad v. United Arab Emirates LEAD APPELLATE ATTORNEY Successfully appealed case on behalf of United Arab Emirates
Disqualification of Akin Gump Law Firm in High-Profile Case Konanykhine v. Izvestia Newspaper
SOLE ATTORNEY Successfully argued in Arlington County Circuit Court to disqualify Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, L.L.P. pursuant to Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct 1.9 and 1.10.
Plaintiff’s Counsel in ValuJet Flight 592 Litigation Panahi v. ValuJet Airlines, Inc. CO-COUNSEL Represented estate of family who perished in the 1996 Valu-Jet Flight 592 airplane crash.
Defense Counsel in BCCI Bank Fraud Litigation First American Corp. v. Al-Nahyan CO-COUNSEL Represented BCCI Bank shareholder in the BCCI Bank Fraud litigation.
Multistate Bar Examination, 169 of 200 (97th Percentile)
Multistate Ethics Examination, 147 of 150 (99th Percentile)
University of Miami School of Law, Coral Gables, Florida Juris Doctor, May 1994
Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. Bachelor of Science in Business Administration: Finance, May 1991
Szymkowicz & Szymkowicz, LLP
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