Russian ex-rector gunned down

February 6, 2004

A Russian academic at the centre of an investigation into what is believed to be the largest-ever theft of tuition fees was shot dead last month.

Police said the killing bore the hallmarks of a contract hit.

Igor Skopylatov, a former director of Smolny University - which used to run dozens of small private colleges in St Petersburg - was shot in the head and the back at the entrance to the city-centre flat where he lived.

The 44-year-old academic, who most recently worked at the St Petersburg Institute of Fire Prevention, was under investigation for alleged fraud and theft of 884 million rubles (£17 million) worth of tuition fees from Smolny.

Mr Skopylatov, who was a city councillor and former rector of the St Petersburg branch of the Moscow Institute of International Economic Relations, was found after neighbours heard shots.

Smolny - a private institution not related to the similarly named Smolny College, a US-Russian college of St Petersburg University - could not be reached for comment. It appears to have closed down after its former rector disappeared, also taking students' money with him.

The weekly newspaper Argumenti I Fakt reported that the university had been plagued by financial problems and that three years ago some teaching staff had threatened to resign if they were not paid properly and on time. Smolny head Alexander Migunov subsequently disappeared, and the university and its subsidiaries were closed.

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