“I spent 10 years there, so I know how issues work,” stated Taurasi, who has performed for Russian groups and is the main scorer in W.N.B.A. historical past. “It’s delicate.”
UMMC Yekaterinburg paid Taurasi a reported $1.5 million to skip the 2015 W.N.B.A. season and play solely in Russia.
“It was a really private alternative,” Taurasi instructed The New York Instances on the time. “My agent stated it will be financially irresponsible to not do it.”
UMMC Yekaterinburg, based mostly within the metropolis of the identical identify and roughly a two-hour flight from Moscow, is managed by the oligarch Iskander Makhmudov and his enterprise companion, Andrei Kozitsyn. Makhmudov and Kozitsyn head Ural Mining and Metallurgical Firm, which mines commodities like copper, zinc, coal, gold and silver, and is certainly one of Russia’s prime producers.
They had been a part of a wave of oligarchs who amassed their wealth after the collapse of the Soviet Union by investing in industries like fuel, oil and valuable metals. Following Putin’s ascent, oligarchs like Roman Abramovich, Alisher Usmanov and Mikhail Prokhorov purchased into outstanding sports activities franchises, just like the soccer groups Chelsea and Arsenal F.C. and the N.B.A.’s Nets.
Whereas some house owners had reputable causes for investing in sports activities, others who funded or bought groups had been doing so at the least partly to look extra reputable to American and British authorities, in line with Karen Greenaway, a retired F.B.I. agent who investigated worldwide corruption and spent part of her profession within the former Soviet Union. Makhmudov has been linked to legal exercise and has enterprise associations with different oligarchs tied to organized crime in Russia, in line with civil fits lodged in the US and the UK by opponents and regulation enforcement officers.
Makhmudov was accused of being concerned in a scheme to take over the Russian aluminum business, in line with a civil case filed in New York in 2000. In it, Makhmudov and two different oligarchs, Oleg Deripaska and Michael Cherney, had been accused of a racketeering scheme which concerned fraud, bribery and tried homicide. They contested the allegations, and the case was dismissed in the US as a result of the decide consented to maneuver it to Russia.