Two dozen mafia bosses caught in Moscow police raid - ministry

Twenty-three organized crime leaders were arrested during a meeting at a restaurant in a Moscow suburb where they were planning to map out a strategy now that a key underworld chief was murdered recently, the Interior Ministry said on Saturday.

The gathering at the Family Elite Club restaurant in the Nikolina Gora village, which brought together Russian and Belarusian crime barons, was masked as a birthday party for "one of the oldest 'thief generals," the ministry said in a statement.

"According to information that has been obtained, three contenders for the 'thief-in-law' status who had arrived from Belarus were to be 'crowned' during the meeting," the statement said. "Thief-in-law" is a top underworld status in Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union.

The murder of Aslan Usoyan, nicknamed Grandpa Hassan, in Moscow on January 10 was another reason for the get-together. The crime bosses "planned to consider their action after the recent murder of 'clan' leader Aslan Usoyan and coordinate the work of organized crime rings controlled by the crime 'clan' of Tariel Oniani," the ministry said.

The arrests were the result of a police raid.

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