Co-owner of small Russian bank shot in Moscow in apparent contract killing

A co-owner of a small Russian private bank was gunned down in an apparent contract killing in central Moscow, prosecutors said Wednesday.

An unidentified assailant shot Konstantin Meshcheryakov of Spetssetstroibank several times in the head, neck and torso Tuesday night, said Svetlana Petrenko, spokeswoman for the city prosecutors. A murder investigation has been opened, she said.

The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted an unnamed official in the prosecutor's office as saying Meshcheryakov could have been killed because of his professional activity and that the crime bore signs of a contract killing.

A spokeswoman at the bank declined to comment, reports AP.

Russia has seen a spate of contract killings in the banking sector. In October, the head of a branch of the state-controlled Vneshtorgbank was fatally shot in Moscow. The top deputy director of the Central Bank, Andrei Kozlov, was gunned down in the capital in September in a killing widely seen as connected to his efforts to clean up the banking sector.

Opened in 1994, Spetssetstroibank is a small private bank that has offices in Moscow and Russia's second-largest city, St. Petersburg.

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