MOSCOW—Businessman Vladimir Marugov—also known as the Sausage King of Moscow and who famously called one of his factories the “Meat Empire”—was naked in a sauna hut on Sunday night when two masked assailants attacked him and his lover.
The attackers demanded money, then tied Marugov and his partner up before murdering the businessman with a crossbow. His lover later managed to escape the crime scene and alerted authorities to the slaughter at the bloody banya.
Before his grim demise, the multimillionaire Marugov had dreams of building his family business into a traditional sausage empire, in the fashion of the most respected German or Austrian sausage firms, so it could pass first to his son and then to his grandchildren. The idea of succession was deeply rooted in his mind; Marugov shared this dream in every interview he granted. But that dream had fallen apart. Several years ago, he left his wife for a younger woman—the same lover who ended up in the sauna attack. Then his oldest son died in a traffic accident last year.
And on Sunday, Marugov’s own life ended in the most dramatic way.
The businessman had enemies in his closest circle, and he had been fighting a furious war over property with his family members.
Like many men in the Russian elite, Marugov lived a double life—one with his good-looking wife, poetess Tatiana Marugova, and their son; and another with his business partner, 36-year-old Sabina Gaziyeva, a long-haired brunette (just like his wife). When Marugov divorced Tatiana, he acted dignified, at first: the oligarch left his wife and son, the future heir to his wealth, a spacious apartment, a villa, and his beloved sausage factory. But later Marugov changed his mind and demanded all his property back.
Russia—where even the president has divorced his first wife and is rumored to have a mysterious private life, including several children by Olympic champion Alina Kabayeva—loves to gossip about rich family dramas. A few years ago the entire country was discussing the lurid details of the Marugovs’ personal scandals.
His ex-wife, the poetess Tatiana, published lyrics full of pain and despair, then appeared on a Jerry Springer-style TV gossip show to declare: “I have found out that there was a lover in his bed for half of our life; that my husband bought apartments and vehicles for her.” The biggest wound, Tatiana said, was that Marugov stopped communicating with their 23-year-old son, Alexander, after he had two children with his new partner, and devoted all his life to the new family, she charged. The ex-wife shared her pain with millions of Russians, complaining: “I received death threats from him, believe me, he is not going to stop until he squashes me.”
The war over the Meat Empire and other family property continued for five years. Then another tragedy struck: Marugov’s son Alexander crashed his motorbike in July last year and died.
Marugov was the second Russian businessman assassinated in his sauna in recent weeks. Authoritarian businessman Alexander Petrov was murdered in a sauna in the city of Vyborg, near the border with Finland, in late October.
Ex-intelligence agent Gennady Gudkov told The Daily Beast that the latest murders should be a wake-up call for the entire Russian elite to revisit their security situation. “If I were a Russian oligarch today, I would pay attention both to Marugov’s assassination, which was skillfully done by a crossbow shooter, as well as to another recent assassination of businessman Alexander Petrov—he was killed as he was walking out of his sauna, a place where one is so vulnerable,” Gudkov said.
By Monday evening, police had apprehended two men in connection with Marugov’s murderer. One of them had allegedly purchased the crossbow.
Police reportedly discovered a senior citizen handcuffed to a bed in one of the suspect’s houses. The prisoner claims he was being extorted by the kidnappers.
It is still unclear who ordered the killings, but Gudkov, a longtime manager of a security firm, suspects it was an organized hit. “I once managed to prevent a contract murder: a wife had ordered her husband’s assassination in revenge, after he raised the rent for her shop; she later admitted to me her true intentions,” said Gudkov, who is experienced in investigating crimes in Russia. “I am sure the investigators suspect Marugov’s closest family members [or] friends as some of the prime suspects.”
Thousands of Russians have lost their jobs in the recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and in many regions crime has been rising. The Russian Interior Ministry reported that during the period from January to June, the number of cybercrimes and financial scams had increased by 91 percent. “We had a concern in April, that unemployed people would form criminal gangs,” a Moscow businessman, Vasily Zubakin, told The Daily Beast. But he said that targeting wealthy individuals is nothing new. “In general, criminals here have robbed summer cottages and tortured private owners during times of high oil prices and low oil prices, before and during the virus.”