Anna bankrolled by Mafia Godfather from the news of the world
EXCLUSIVE: Moscow don 'put up $1/2m'
Anna bankrolled by Mafia Godfather
By Jules Stenson
AN evil Russian mobster was a "second father" to tennis beauty Anna Kournikova, the News of the World can reveal.
Yakov Gofman, whose crime gang was notorious for contract killings and racketeering, claimed he "invested" £300,000 in getting Anna's career off the ground.
Gofman, murdered by a rival gang who burned his body, was the secret lover of Anna's mum Alla.
These extraordinary pictures show how close Anna and her mum were to the Moscow crimelord.
Not surprisingly, the Mafia boss has been airbrushed out of the official story of Kournikova, now battling to get fit for Wimbledon a week tomorrow.
But we can reveal he played a pivotal role in the 22-year-old's amazing rise to fame.
Shortly before Gofman's charred remains were found on a Moscow back street he told a friend: "Without me Anna wouldn't be the international star she is today."
But the millionaire, who made his money from Mafia-linked customs scams, never spoke publicly about his involvement with the family.
However, the true story has emerged as Russian cops investigate the kidnapping of Gofman, 43, in 2001.
Even though his associates were willing to pay a $200,000 ransom his abductors killed him shortly after snatching him from the street and destroyed any evidence in a blaze.
The gangster's close friend and tennis coach Igor Tateosov, 55, said Anna is Gofman's legacy to the world.
"If not for Gofman you would never have heard about someone called Anna Kournikova," Tateosov insists. "He paid for everything when she was young.
"He bought her first tennis racket and funded her tuition, including when she moved to America.
"But more than that he was deeply in love with Alla. He wrecked his marriage to Larissa to be with Alla and sponsor Anna.
"So when the Kournikovas dumped him after they went to the States he was heartbroken."
The News of the World has documentary proof that Alla and Gofman applied to marry in October 1992. But there is no evidence that the marriage went ahead.
Sources say Alla and Gofman were close from 1986 until 1994, by which time Anna was living in America. And he remained bitter to the end over the way the Kournikovas disowned him.
Tateosov said Gofman once told him: "I gave her everything but then Alla and Anna deserted me.
"Now I wish I had never had anything to do with them."
Anna is now based in Florida, where her mum and dad Sergei make a virtue of their family unity.
Anna is dating pop heart-throb Enrique Iglesias, although the family laugh off reports that the couple secretly wed two weeks ago.
They also refuse to speak about Gofman, who they last saw in a fraught encounter in Moscow just months before his brutal death.
He cornered them in a packed sports stadium during one of their rare visits back to their home city.
An onlooker said Gofman got down on his knees and begged Alla to come back to him.
"There were many people around," said the witness.
"But the Kournikovas just called their security men and had him thrown out of the stadium."
From the news of the world