Vardan Kushnir

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Russian Police Claim Biggest Spammer's Murder Solved

MosNews, Russia
Aug 15 2005

MosNews -- Vardan Kushnir, murdered in late July in Moscow, may have fallen victim to a 15-year-old girl and her three friends, a popular Moscow tabloid, Moskovsky Komsomolets, reported Monday.

Vardan Kushnir, notorious for sending spam to each and every citizen of Russia who appeared to have an e-mail, was found dead in his Moscow apartment on July 27. He died after suffering repeated blows to the head.

Kushnir, 35, headed the English learning centers the Center for American English, the New York English Center and the Center for Spoken English, all known to have aggressive Internet advertising policies in which millions of e-mails were sent every day.

In the past angry Internet users have targeted the American English center by publishing the Center's telephone numbers anywhere on the Web to provoke telephone calls. The Center's telephone was advertised as a contact number for cheap sex services, or bargain real estate sales.

Another attack involved hundreds of people making phone calls to the American English Center and sending it numerous e-mails back, but Vardan Kushnir remained sure of his right to spam, saying it was what e-mails were for.

Under Russian law, spamming is not considered illegal, although lawmakers are working on legal projects that could protect Russian Internet users like they do in Europe and the U.S.

The police also examined another lead suggesting that Kushnir could have been attacked by robbers.

On Sunday the Moscow criminal investigation directorate detained a group of young people on suspicion of murdering Kushnir with a view to rob him. The investigators believe that a 15-year-old girl and two boys, 18 and 17 years of age, along with a 27-year-old accomplice had broke into Kushnir's apartment.

One of the boys wielded a baseball bat which he used to beat the man to death. The detainees insist Kushnir had invited them to his place himself where he made passes at the girl by the name of Vika. Her friends tried to stop him, then Kushnir grabbed a knife and the young men hit the man with an empty bottle on the head in order to defend themselves.

Incidentally, the detained young men claim the girl was not involved in the brawl and insist on her innocence.

Vardan Kushnir was an Armenian-descended spammer who ran the American Language Center, and who is believed to have spammed the entire population of Russian-language Internet users with ads for his language courses.

According to some estimates, his ads reached 25 million users at his peak, between 2003 and 2004. Although only Muscovites were eligible to sign up, the ads went to many other countries, including Ukraine, the United States and Israel.